Likud lawmaker and former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat has introduced legislation that would ban any foreign country from opening a diplomatic mission anywhere in the Israeli capital without Israel’s consent.
That would seem like something of an obvious position. No other nation would let foreign countries open embassies and consulates in its capital without permission. But most of the world still doesn’t recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the entirety of Jerusalem.
Barkat’s bill is aimed in general at solidifying Israeli sovereignty in the Holy City. More specifically, it will block the United States from reopening a separate consulate for the Palestinians.
When former US President Donald Trump was in office he finally implemented the Jerusalem Embassy Act and moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In doing so, he folded the city’s US Consulate that served both Israelis and Palestinians into the new the new embassy facility.
Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, has stated his intention to reopen a separate consulate to serve the Palestinians in his effort to mend relations with Ramallah.
Israel has stressed that it has no problem with the Americans establishing a diplomatic mission to the Palestinians, but that it must not be located in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.
Barkat’s legislation was submitted last month, but a vote still hasn’t been scheduled.
When it does reach the plenum floor, the bill will enjoy the support of Likud and other right-wing opposition parties, as well as at least two right-wing parties in the governing coalition, New Hope and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina.
That could explain why the Knesset is dragging its feet on actually addressing the proposed legislation. Bennett agrees with Barkat that the Americans shouldn’t open a consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem. But making the matter official and legally binding could create unwanted tension between Israel and the Biden White House. No doubt the prime minister prefers to maintain the status quo through quiet maneuvering for the time being.