Articles > > BACK IN 1844

Articles - Addostour - Date: 2019-03-05
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

The decision to establish the American Consulate in Jerusalem goes back to the tenth U.S. President, John Tyler, in 1844.
This was more than half a century before the First Zionist Congress in Basel in Switzerland, when the Zionist idea was still in its embryonic stage and when its ultimate destination was still unclear – ranging from the Crimea to Uganda via Palestine. The Consulate began operating in the city – in Bab al-Khalil – some years after the U.S. president's decision and continued to operate until yesterday, when it was shut down and turned into an annex to the U.S. embassy that was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem unilaterally and contrary to international law and international legitimacy's resolutions and the peace process' terms of reference.
Successive U.S. administrations – Democratic and Republican alike– have declared their acceptance of a 'two-state solution' and their support for the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state. They have agreed to UNSCR 1515, which was adopted in 2003 and calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state by the year 2005, and to UNSCR 2334, which preceded it, regarding settlement construction, discrimination, and altering the [occupied territories'] demographic composition, all of which were either issued with Washington's approval or its abstention. Based on these positions and agreements, the logical conclusion was to expect the consulate to become an embassy, and that the U.S. and the State of Palestine would mutually recognize each other. But Donald Trump and his administration have blocked the path to the development of the American position and have adopted a full U-turn in U.S.'s policy towards the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.
I believe that lowering the U.S.'s diplomatic representation instead of raising it and transforming the consulate into a mere annex sends a signal regarding the nature of the 'entity' that the U.S. is proposing to the Palestinians, and that does not rise to the level of a state. It is a form of limited self-ruling entity whose functions do not go beyond safeguarding and sweeping roads and protecting [Israeli] settlements and settlers, with expanded municipal services at most. Such an entity does not call for an embassy, not even a consulate. An annex to Washington's embassy in Jerusalem seems capable of fulfilling the necessary functions and dealing with all contingencies.
This American decision overlaps with Jared Kushner's explanation of the awaited and hoped-for Palestinian entity. He avoided mentioning the word 'state' in describing this entity. He did not characterize its establishment as an instance of self-determination. Instead, he confined himself to talking briefly of 'border delineation' between this entity and the occupation state as a prelude to removing these borders. And this raises fears that the 'two-state solution' is now behind us, and that the president's son-in-law may want to borrow from the example of relations between China and Hong Kong – while acknowledging the huge differences between the two cases. In other words, he wants to establish 'a single state ruled by two regimes,' which is especially likely since Kushner is showing interest in 'economic peace' to a degree that no American official has shown before. In fact, he has based his administration's initiative on the principle of money-for rights, and on the notion of 'purchasing roles and facilities' with money and even more money.
Hong Kong is a part of the Chinese state, with its own special regime (one state with two regimes). It has no sovereignty and no diplomatic representation. It issues special passports for its citizens and for its Chinese permanent residents. Is this the model that came to Kushner's mind when conjured up the 'deal of the century'? Israel will be the state that owns the land and enjoys sovereignty, while the Palestinian residents will enjoy their own 'special regime' that allows them to elect their institutions and issue their passports, all in order to preserve the Jewish character of the state and not to serve the Palestinians. Moreover, the Bantustans where the Palestinians will live will have shifting geographic borders that only shrink and never expand. And their inhabitants will have the right to move and work in Israeli settlements and intensive Israeli technological development cities, or to move inside the Green line.
If these are the limits of the 'Palestinian entity,' then it requires no embassy and even no general consulate. A single annex to the embassy would suffice. And this American position is very much in line with the texts and spirit of the Kushner/Greenblatt initiative judging by the leaks of some of its main points.
So no one should be surprised. And no one should be shocked.