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Israel MK seeks to outlaw reopening of US' Palestine mission in Jerusalem

A general view shows the swearing-in ceremony of Israel's Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem, on April 6, 2021 [ALEX KOLOMOISKY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]
A general view of Israel's Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem on April 6, 2021 [ALEX KOLOMOISKY/POOL/AFP/Getty Images]

An Israeli right-wing opposition member of the Knesset is seeking to outlaw the planned reopening of a US mission in Jerusalem that has traditionally been a base for diplomatic outreach to the Palestinians, Reuters reports.

Israel's new cross-partisan government led by nationalist Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also opposes the reinauguration of the consulate, potentially buoying Likud lawmaker Nir Barkat's effort to scupper the move, though it would strain relations with Washington.

The consulate was subsumed into the US Embassy that was moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in 2018 by then-US President Donald Trump, steps hailed by Israel and condemned by Palestinians.

With an eye towards repairing US relations with the Palestinians, and rebuilding mutual trust, President Joe Biden's administration says it will reopen the consulate while leaving the embassy in place.

Barkat's legislation, filed in parliament last month and with voting as yet unscheduled, would outlaw opening a foreign mission in Jerusalem without Israel's consent.

READ: Knesset's winter session began with an acrimonious exchange between Netanyahu and Bennett

"I think that the current Israeli government is weak. It depends on the left, it depends on radicals on our side," he told Reuters. "We must do everything we can to maintain the unity of the city of Jerusalem."

Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital. East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 war along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, has been earmarked as the capital of the future State of Palestine.

Ahmed Al-Deek, adviser to the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, said Barkat "represents the position of far-right parties in Israel which seek to block any chance of reaching a two-state solution."

Barkat said polling showed some 70 per cent public support for the bill – enough to garner votes from within the coalition. Asked for Bennett's position, his spokesman cast the bill as a PR stunt, saying: "We don't comment on trolling."

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