(CNSNews.com) – Some conservative voices in Israel and the United States are worried that President Biden’s visit to Israel this week will include important symbolic concessions to the Palestinians, at a time when a weak caretaker government in Jerusalem will be unable or unwilling to oppose them.
Among their concerns are plans for Biden to visit a hospital in disputed east Jerusalem, reportedly unaccompanied by any Israeli government officials. The Palestinian Authority wants to locate the capital of a future independent state in east Jerusalem, and critics say the unprecedented visit to the area by a sitting U.S. president will reinforce those claims.
Biden is also expected to reaffirm his plan to reopen a Palestinian-focused consulate in Jerusalem, while Israel – prodded by the U.S. – will agree to allow the P.A. some jurisdiction at the Allenby crossing on the Israel-Jordan border, according to Israeli media reports.
The three reported concessions strike at the heart of Israel’s claims to sovereignty in Jerusalem, as well as successive Israeli governments’ positions on the need to retain control over the strategic Jordan Valley in any final settlement with the Palestinians.
Israel is heading for its fifth election in less than four years after a fragile year-old coalition disintegrated. Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett handed over the reins to his coalition partner, Yair Lapid, who will serve in a caretaker capacity until the Nov. 1 election.
In a joint campaign, several Zionist non-governmental organizations in Israel and the U.S. are urging Biden not to “exploit Israel’s unstable political landscape to extract historic concessions from an interim government that may be tempted to pay an enormously high price to shore up their election prospects.”
They are simultaneously calling on Lapid not to “sell out our national interests for photo-ops with visiting dignitaries who have agendas of their own.”
“Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley are Israel’s most vital existential interests,” said the NGOs, which include the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and Israeli Zionist NGOs Regavim and the Sovereignty Movement. “They’re not for sale.”
President Trump in 2017 and the following year moved the U.S. Embassy there, meeting a statutory requirement in the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act that his predecessors had waived for almost two decades.
The U.S. Consulate in the city had served as a de facto embassy to the P.A., but its services and functions were folded into a “Palestinian Affairs Unit,” falling under the embassy.
Plans by the Biden administration to reopen the consulate have been delayed as a result of strong Israeli objections. Last March foreign minister – now prime minister – Lapid reiterated that opposition, declaring, “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and Israel alone.”
Citing an unnamed U.S. official, the Jerusalem Post reported on Monday that Biden during his visit would reaffirm his intention to reopen the consulate.
In what some saw as a preliminary move, the State Department last month renamed the Palestinian Affairs Unit the “U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs in Jerusalem.”
“The name change is not merely cosmetic,” the Jerusalem Post said in an editorial at the time. “It is a sign of President Joe Biden’s desire to stick by his election promise and reopen a U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem to serve the Palestinians, reversing the action by his predecessor.”
Last month 89 Republican lawmakers called on the administration to reverse course, arguing that the move was inconsistent with the Jerusalem Embassy Act and “not how America should treat Israel, one of our closest allies in the world.”
‘A violation of Israeli and American law’
Meanwhile Axios reported on Monday that the Biden administration has rejected requests for Israeli officials to be present when the president visits the Augusta Victoria hospital on the Mount of Olives on Friday.
Although the hospital is run by the Lutheran World Federation and UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, patients are referred there by the P.A. health ministry, and as such it and several other hospitals in east Jerusalem are viewed as P.A. institutions.
The third reported concession relates to the Allenby border crossing. Currently Israeli and Jordanian officials oversee the facility, although most of those using the crossing are Palestinians.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides has reportedly been pushing Israel for months to grant the P.A. jurisdiction there.
“A quick visit by the U.S. President during a transitional government must not create long-term strategical damage to Israel,” said the Israel Defense and Security Forum, a movement of retired and reserve Israeli Defense Force officers and security personnel.
“There is no place for any Palestinian presence in the Jordan Valley or the Allenby border crossing.”
In a op-ed on Friday, former Israeli ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon argued that agreeing to P.A. representation at the Allenby crossing and Biden’s planned “visit to symbolic P.A. institutions in east Jerusalem” were unprecedented concessions that were “likely to cost Israel heavily for years to come.”
“The symbolic nature of this visit [to east Jerusalem] has been created to pave the way for the U.S. administration to challenge Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem,” Danon said. “Lapid as caretaker prime minister is currently giving them the green light, yet he has no authority to allow such a maneuver to take place.”
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