(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
U.S. consulate in Jerusalem

It’s not clear how U.S. could legally reopen controversial consulate without Israeli consent.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

Despite Israeli objections, the U.S. may try to unilaterally reopen its consulate in Jerusalem, according to a Palestinian media report.

A report in the Palestinian daily, Al-Quds quoted sources with ties to the White House that the administration of President Joe Biden will push forward with the consulate,  despite opposition from Israel and Congress, Israel Hayom reported.

The consulate building is located in western Jerusalem, near downtown.

“According to the sources cited in the report, the de-facto embassy to the Palestinians will be opened ‘shortly’ after the state budget is passed next month, in other words as soon as either November or early December.” The unnamed sources quoted by Al-Quds said the Biden administration “was furious with Israel’s policies” on expanding settlements.

The privately owned Al-Quds is widely viewed as a semi-official mouthpiece for the Palestinian Authority.

Numerous reports have indicated that the White House does not want to press Israel on contentious issues that could undermine Israel’s governing coalition until after the Knesset passes the state budget. A new budget must be approved by November 4, or the Knesset will be automatically dissolved and Israel will head to new elections.

“According to the American sources, in the first stage, the White House plans to reach an agreement with Israel on the issue. Should those efforts fail, the government could take the unilateral step of reopening the consulate once the budget has passes and the government is likely to remain stable,” Israel Hayom wrote.

The report didn’t indicate on what legal basis the U.S. might unilaterally open a diplomatic mission against Israel’s wishes.

In September, Professor Eugene Kontorovich, director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, who advised the Trump administration on closing the U.S. consulate in 2018, told reporters there was no legal basis for such a move.

“The Americans cannot legally – or practically – reopen a consulate in Jerusalem without explicit Israeli approval,” Kontorovich said.“If [Foreign Minister Yair] Lapid thinks a consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem is a bad idea, all he has to do is refuse to give it or the consul accreditation.”

Consular services for Palestinians have been provided at the U.S. embassy since President Donald Trump moved it to Jerusalem in 2018. Reopening the consulate has become a key goal of both the Palestinian Authority and the Biden administration.

Israel opposes the consulate’s reopening, saying it violates Israeli sovereignty over the city, prejudices peace efforts and violates U.S, law.

While visiting the White House in September, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett suggested the U.S. open a consulate in Ramallah or outside Jerusalem, a proposal Biden balked at.. The U.S. has an educational and cultural center in Ramallah called the America House which critics say could be transformed into a suitable consulate.