Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called on the US administration on Friday to expedite the reopening of the US Consulate General in Jerusalem, which formerly handled direct ties with Palestinians.
Shtayyeh’s call came during a meeting in Ramallah with a US group that included Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Middle East panel, Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Jon Ossoff (D-GA).
In 2019, the consulate was formally integrated into the US Embassy, which was relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Palestinian officials criticized the decision, which was taken by the administration of former US President Donald Trump.
Last May, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Washington will reopen the consulate. He made the announcement after meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
However, Blinken did not give a precise date for reopening the diplomatic mission, but said that it would be “an important way for our country to engage with and provide support to the Palestinian people.”
Last week, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid warned that US plans to reopen the consulate would jeopardize Israel’s government. “We have an interesting yet delicate structure of our government, and we think this might destabilize this government, and I don’t think the American administration wants this to happen,” Lapid said.
During the meeting with the senators, Shtayyeh called on the US administration “to expedite the implementation of its promises, especially the reopening of the US Consulate in East Jerusalem, in addition to removing the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority from the lists of terrorism in the US,” the PA’s official news agency Wafa reported.
In 1987, Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism Act, which, among other things, declared the PLO to be a terrorist organization and prohibited the opening of PLO facilities on US soil. Despite the ban, Congress allowed for the president to issue a waiver on his own accord, paving the way for the PLO to open a representative office in Washington in 1994.
In 2018, the Trump administration ordered the closure of the PLO office due to the Palestinians’ refusal to engage with the White House on its Middle East Peace to Prosperity plan. The State Department said back then that the decision was taken because the PLO “has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”
The PA is not included in the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
Shtayyeh was apparently referring to the 2018 Taylor Force Act of Congress to stop American aid to the PA until it ceases paying stipends to Palestinians who commit acts of terrorism and to the families of deceased terrorists. A US anti-terrorism legislation that came into force a year later allows Americans to sue in US courts those receiving US foreign aid, including the PA, over alleged complicity in “acts of war.”
Shtayyeh stressed the importance of working to open a serious and new political path to end the [Israeli] occupation through the Quartet on the basis of international law and legitimacy and United Nations resolutions,” according to Wafa.
The Quartet consists of the US, European Union, UN, and Russia.
The PA has stated that it is ready to resume peace talks with Israel only under the leadership of all the Quartet members, and not the US alone.
Shtayyeh repeated his appeal to the US administration to pressure Israel “and oblige it to respect the signed agreements, including halting construction in the settlements, stopping violations of Palestinian human rights, whether by killing, arresting, demolishing property and confiscating land, and halting its measures in Jerusalem,” the agency said.
Shtayyeh discussed with the delegation the importance of directly strengthening bilateral relations between the US and the Palestinians and praised the Biden administration’s decision to renew financial aid to the United Nations Work and Relief Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and development and infrastructure projects. He also praised the US for helping the Palestinians combat COVID-19.
Shtayyeh told the senators that the two-state solution “faces a real danger as a result of Israel’s continuation of its settlement policy and land-grabbing.” He warned that “the erosion of the two-state solution and the continuation of the status quo will have demographic and security consequences.”
Shtayyeh called on the US to exert serious pressure on Israel to allow Palestinian elections to be held in Jerusalem.
In April, Abbas called off the elections for the PA parliament and presidency on the pretext that Israel had not responded to his request to allow the vote to take place in Jerusalem.
He condemned Prime Minister Naftali Bennet’s statements on the eve of his recent visit to Washington, saying they “demonstrate clear intransigence and persistence in the settlement policy and the creation of permanent facts on the ground.”
In an interview with The New York Times on the eve of his visit to Washington, Bennet ruled out any progress in the peace process with the Palestinians and said that Israel will continue the standard policy of “natural growth” in the settlements.