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5 Feb, 2021 08:36

US Senate overwhelmingly votes to make embassy in Jerusalem permanent – Sanders, Warren among three nay votes

US Senate overwhelmingly votes to make embassy in Jerusalem permanent – Sanders, Warren among three nay votes

The US Senate overwhelmingly voted to ensure the continued funding for the operation of the US embassy in Jerusalem, sealing Donald Trump’s snub to Palestinians that made a two-state solution even more elusive.

Only three senators – Tom Carper (D-Delaware), Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (D- Massachusetts) – voted against the move which effectively makes the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv permanent. Thursday night’s vote confirms the status of Jerusalem as “the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish State of Israel,” according to Senator Bill Hagerty (R-Tennessee) who co-sponsored the resolution.

The embassy relocation in May 2018 was one of many steps taken by the Trump administration in support of Israeli policies. It’s also a part of his legacy that his successor, President Joe Biden, pledged to preserve. During his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Antony Blinken unequivocally stated that the Biden administration considers Jerusalem the capital of Israel and will maintain the embassy there.

Palestinians saw the relocation as yet more proof that the US cannot be a mediator in the protracted conflict between the two sides, since it legitimizes the Israeli occupation and de facto annexation of East Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority envisions the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

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The so-called ‘deal of the century’ promoted by Trump and favored by Israel proposes a few neighborhoods on the outskirts of East Jerusalem for a Palestinian capital. According to the plan, the government would rule a state physically fragmented into several enclaves by Israeli territory. Unsurprisingly, the Palestinian Authority rejected the idea.

While the embassy is here to stay, President Biden intends to pedal back on some other Trump policies regarding Palestinians. His UN envoy, Richard Mills, pledged last week to restore diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority and renew payment of humanitarian aid, which was cut under Trump.

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Diplomatic ties were severed by the Palestinian side in 2017, after Trump announced the plans to move the embassy. The aid, which was going through the UN, was cut by Washington the next year.

During his election campaign, Biden suggested that his administration could reopen the US consulate general in Jerusalem, which handled relations with Palestinians before being merged with the embassy in 2019. 

Reopening the consulate would be seen as a conciliatory gesture by the Palestinian Authority. But it would require Israel’s consent, which may be tricky to obtain.

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