The US will reopen its Consulate General in Jerusalem — a move that restores ties with Palestinians that had been downgraded by the Trump administration.
The consulate long served as an autonomous office in charge of diplomatic relations with the Palestinians. But former US President Donald Trump downgraded its operations and placed them under the authority of his ambassador to Israel when he moved the embassy to Jerusalem.
Trump’s move infuriated the Palestinians, who view east Jerusalem as occupied territory and the capital of their future state.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who announced the move, did not give a precise date for reopening the consulate.
Blinken announced the step after a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank.
“As I told the president, I’m here to underscore the commitment of the United States to rebuilding the relationship with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, a relationship built on mutual respect and also a shared conviction that Palestinians and Israelis alike deserve equal measures of security, freedom opportunity and dignity,” he said.
Blinken is in the region to help shore up the cease-fire last week that ended a devastating war 11-day war between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers that killed more than 250 people, mostly Palestinians, and caused widespread destruction in the impoverished coastal territory.
He promised to “rally international support” to help Gaza in the wake of the war. He later announced nearly $40 million in aid to the Palestinians, including $5.5 million in emergency assistance for Gaza. That brings total U.S. assistance to the Palestinians under the Biden administration to over $360 million after the Trump administration had cut off nearly all assistance to them.
Blinken has promised that any assistance will be kept out of the hands of Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and which Israel and the US consider a terrorist organisation.
The truce that ended the Gaza war on Friday has so far held, but it did not address any of the underlying issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something Blinken acknowledged after meeting earlier in the day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We know that to prevent a return to violence, we have to use the space created to address a larger set of underlying issues and challenges. And that begins with tackling the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza and starting to rebuild,” he said.
The top US diplomat faces the same obstacles that have stifled a wider peace process for more than a decade, including a hawkish Israeli leadership, Palestinian divisions and deeply rooted tensions surrounding Jerusalem and its holy sites. The Biden administration had initially hoped to avoid being drawn into the intractable conflict and focus on other foreign policy priorities before the violence broke out.
The truce remains tenuous since tensions are still high in Jerusalem and the fate of the Palestinian families is not yet resolved.