Blinken State Department Must Engage Opportunities for Diplomacy and Reopen the Consulate General in East Jerusalem
In recent remarks at the State Department, President Biden proclaimed, “diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy.” Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) affirms the central role of diplomacy in shaping U.S. foreign policy. We are encouraged by initial steps from the Biden Administration in its outreach to Palestinian leadership.
After nearly four years of no public contact between U.S. officials and Palestinian leadership, CMEP was encouraged to hear of the call between Hady Amr, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs, and Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Commission chairman. Amr is also reported to have spoken with the PA. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. Mr. Amr, a policy expert and diplomat who also worked on Israel/Palestine policy under the Obama Administration, is an encouraging choice as the lead State Department official for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs. CMEP looks forward to working with Mr. Amr to encourage a U.S. policy that will result in a just and lasting end to the conflict in Israel/Palestine.
Yet, we are aware that much more must be done to truly build a diplomatic relationship with Palestinian leadership based on trust and mutuality. The United States must take real steps to ensure it is not seen as a dishonest broker. As the Biden Administration continues its engagement with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, CMEP calls on the Biden Administration to make the reopening of the Consulate General in East Jerusalem for Palestinians a top priority. Closed under the previous administration and merged to become the Palestinian Affairs Unit (PAU) in the newly opened Embassy in Jerusalem, the Consulate General in East Jerusalem provided a necessary connection point between Palestinians and the U.S. Government. It is imperative the U.S. reopen this consulate as a way to meaningfully engage with Palestinians throughout East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. CMEP also calls upon the Biden Administration to strengthen diplomatic ties with the Palestinian leadership in Washington, DC. The PLO Representative Office, closed under the Trump Administration, helped provide services to the Palestinian-American community and strengthened the relationship between Palestinian leaders and U.S. officials. President Biden and Secretary Blinken must work with Congressional leaders to find a way to reopen the office. The lack of legitimate diplomatic entities through which the United States may develop its relationship with the Palestinians seems to indicate a shift in direction away from the long-held two-state solution as a resolution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
While it looks like some doors have been opening between the U.S. Administration and Palestinians through the efforts of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hady Amr and others, grave concerns remain about U.S. policy vis a vis the Palestinians. Under both Republican and Democratic Administrations, the United States Government has never fully lived up to its promise of engaging as a good-faith partner to help bring about a just and lasting end conflict in Israel-Palestine. Increases in home demolitions in the West Bank, ongoing settlement growth, limitations on the rights of free speech related to advocacy movements in the United States all remain concerns the Blinken State Department and Biden Administration must address. We ask the Biden Administration to hold the Israeli government accountable for its actions regarding the ongoing occupation and to continue to strengthen diplomatic ties with Palestinian leadership so that both sides can work together to serve human rights and equality for all in Israel-Palestine.
Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is a coalition of 30 national church communions and organizations, including Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Evangelical traditions that works to encourage US policies that actively promote a comprehensive resolution to conflicts in the Middle East with a focus on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. CMEP works to mobilize US Christians to embrace a holistic perspective and to be advocates of equality, human rights, security, and justice for Israelis, Palestinians, and all people of the Middle East.
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