US President Joe Biden is expected to reaffirm his intention to open a consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem during his trip to Israel this week, without announcing any progress on the matter, a US official said Monday.
A senior Israeli diplomatic source also said a consulate for the Palestinians is not on the agenda for Biden’s visit.
The top items on Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s agenda for his meeting with Biden are the US-Israel bilateral relationship, Iran and Israel’s integration in the region, the Israeli source said, referring to an expected announcement of advances in ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The Palestinians will also be a topic of discussion, and Russia’s war on Ukraine comes up in all of the prime minister’s conversations with Western leaders, the source added.
Biden promised during his election campaign to reopen the consulate, which formerly operated out of Jerusalem. However, the Trump administration closed it when it moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018. The functions and staff of the former consulate were called the “Palestinian Affairs Unit,” which worked under the auspices of the US Embassy.
Last month, the US State Department upgraded the office to the Palestinians in Jerusalem without opening a consulate. It changed the name to the “US Office of Palestinian Affairs in Jerusalem,” and it is allowing it to report directly to the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau in the State Department.
Biden plans to announce an aid package for Palestinian hospitals in east Jerusalem during a visit to a medical center near the Mount of Olives on Friday. The visit will not be accompanied by Israelis, and it will be within the framework of his meetings with Palestinians, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.
The Israeli government and the Biden administration on Monday continued to negotiate possible gestures Jerusalem could make toward the Palestinians. US officials have pushed for a Palestinian presence at the Allenby crossing to Jordan and 4G cellular Internet for the Palestinians, which Israel has rejected on security grounds.
Other elements of Biden’s schedule had yet to be finalized on Monday, such as whether he will visit the Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem.
Cabinet ministers received invitations to greet Biden on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport, along with the warning that they will not be able to shake hands or take “personal photos” with the president. When US president Donald Trump visited Israel, then-Likud MK Oren Hazan snuck into the welcome ceremony and took a selfie with Trump.
Ministers were also invited to the ceremony at the President’s Residence, at which President Isaac Herzog will award Biden with the Presidential Medal of Honor.