Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid misled the Biden administration on the reopening of the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem, sparking tension between the two allies, an Israeli media outlet reported Sunday.
The Israel Hayom daily said Lapid told Secretary of State Antony Blinken in one of his first calls with him that Israel would greenlight the reopening of the consulate after passing the state budget in November.
“Tensions between Israel and the US over Washington’s plans to reopen a key diplomatic office to the Palestinians in Jerusalem stem from a lack of coordination between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Lapid,” the newspaper said, citing a diplomatic source.
“In his conversations with Blinken, Lapid noted the government’s sensitive political make-up and advised Washington to delay the move until after the Knesset passes a budget,” the unnamed source said.
Blinken had agreed to postpone the reopening of the consulate until the passage Israel’s state budget – a particularly contentious issue – by the Knesset, the report said.
The issue came to light after two Israeli officials, National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata and Bennett adviser Shimrit Meir, held talks with U.S. officials in August.
“In those talks, the two Israeli officials emphasized Bennett’s opposition to the opening of the Palestinian consulate was a matter of principle and unrelated to political timing. Bennett would continue to oppose the move after the budget had passed, they explained,” the source said, adding that the U.S. administration was surprised and disappointed by Hulata’s and Meir’s stance, pointing to an “inconsistent Israeli position on the issue.”
“One of the reasons Blinken announced his intention of opening the consulate last week precisely when Lapid was by his side and with the knowledge Israel opposed (the move) was that Lapid had misled him,” the source said.
The current government headed by Bennett is a motley coalition formed between right-wing, centrist, leftist, and Arab parties.
In May, Blinken announced that the Biden administration would reopen the consulate in eastern Jerusalem – seen as a de facto embassy for the Palestinians – after former President Donald Trump ordered its shuttering following his declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.