U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
In a sign of the profound strain of the American move toward a pro-Israel peace plan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that there would be no place for an American Consulate in the occupied Palestinian city of Jerusalem.
In a major diplomatic setback for the White House, Netanyahu appeared to reject the possibility of any US presence in the holy city, or his guest, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was visiting the Jewish state. Pompeo had seemed to confirm that possibility in a series of conversations with Netanyahu, the most recent last week, as part of efforts to support talks over the fate of occupied lands claimed by both sides and to settle the status of Jerusalem.
“I look forward to the day when every nation and every religious community is able to visit Jerusalem according to its religious precepts and see for themselves what a great city it is,” Pompeo told reporters in Jerusalem on Nov. 2.
“The United States should never be in the business of being Israel’s de facto consulate or ambassadors bureau in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony in the prime minister’s office on Thursday. “There is no room there for it and I don’t think there should be one.”
It was a stark contrast to the views of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during his tenure. In 2014, Kerry, then serving as America’s top diplomat, visited the holy city to try to raise the hopes of Palestinian leadership. There is a walled walled compound in East Jerusalem that is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, at the center of the city, and is sacred to Muslims and Jews.
“The responsibility for anyone who passes by there is not to see it as an obstacle to peace but as an opportunity for peace,” Kerry said at a news conference in Bethlehem in April 2014. “It should be a place where the world meets. The gate is open and the message is clear.”