I went to the US Consulate this week to take care of certain family business. It was a thoroughly unpleasant experience. I think it is ironic that two days after my extremely unpleasant experience at the consulate, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland refused to say what the capital of Israel is. It was ironic because anyone who visits the consulate knows that the US's position on Jerusalem is in perfect alignment with that of Israel's worst enemies.
Last time I went to the consulate was in 2007. At that time the building was located in the middle of an Arab neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem. It was unpleasant. In fact it was fairly frightening. Once inside the building I couldn't shake the feeling that the Americans had gone out of their way to make Israeli-American Jews feel uncomfortable and vaguely threatened.
But then, I was able to console myself with the thought that the US has been upfront about its rejection of Israel's right to assert its sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem. By treating Jews as foreigners in their capital city and behaving as though it belongs to the Arabs by among other things hiring only Arabs as local employees, the US officials on site were simply implementing a known US policy. True, I deeply oppose the policy, but no one was asking me, and no one was hiding anything from me.
The new consulate is much different, and much worse. The State Department opened its new consulate in Jerusalem in October 2010. It is located in the Jewish neighborhood of Arnona. It was built on the plot that Israel allocated for the US Embassy after Congress passed Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995 requiring the US government to move its embassy to Jerusalem. I read that construction began in 2004. I haven't been able to find out whether when construction began it was to build the embassy or a new consulate so I don't know yet whether the Bush administration thought it was building an embassy that the Obama administration turned into a consulate or if the Bush administration thought it was building a consulate that the Obama administration completed.
Whatever the case, the fact that the building that was supposed to be an expression of US recognition of Israel's capital in Jerusalem is being used as the consulate is an unvarnished act of aggression against Israel and Congress.
If I am not mistaken, the US Consulate General in Jerusalem is the only US consulate in the world that is not subordinate to the embassy in the country where it is located. When it was located in a hostile Arab neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem, the fact that it was not subordinate to the US Embassy in Tel Aviv was upsetting. But it was also easily justified in light of US policy of not recognizing Israeli sovereignty in eastern, southern and northern Jerusalem.
But Arnona is in western Jerusalem. It is a Jewish neighborhood that even the most radical Israeli leftists don't envision transferring to the Palestinians in any peace deal. Putting the consulate in Arnona - and on the site reserved for the embassy no less - is the clearest expression of American rejection of all Israeli sovereign rights to Jerusalem imaginable.
And the fact that it is located in the heart of a Jewish neighborhood is far from the only problem with the building.
Israelis who live in Jerusalem and need US consular services are required to go to the consulate in Jerusalem. You can't just go to Tel Aviv to avoid the unpleasantness. This again is due to the fact that the US does not recognize ANY Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. From the State Department's perspective, people who live in Jerusalem -- even in Arnona and Rehavia and Ein Kerem etc. -- live in a DIFFERENT COUNTRY from people who live in Tel Aviv and Netanya. We can no more receive services from the embassy in Tel Aviv than we can receive services from the embassy in Amman.
I will be writing more about the US's adversarial treatment of Israel as embodied in its treatment of Jerusalem in next week's Jerusalem Post column. But suffice it to say here that Victoria Nuland's statement to AP reporter Matt Lee, (posted below in case you missed it), is a true depiction of America's policy on Jerusalem - and though it, on Israel.
It would be useful for someone to get Mitt Romney on record discussing his position on Jerusalem. Assuming that he says - like every other Republican presidential candidate - that he supports transferring the US embassy to Jerusalem, he should further be asked to explain how, if he is elected president, he will force the State Department to change its policies towards Israel and respect US law by treating Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
UPDATE from Yisrael Medad:
The following is an email I received from Yisrael Medad from the Begin Center. He writes an excellent blog www.myrightword.blogspot.com
Yisrael follows the US Consulate in Jerusalem far more closely than I and here is what he was to say:
I am old enough to recall pre-1967 when the Consulate in "West Jerusalem" was where it always was for some 150 years - at Agron Street. The library was great. And by the way, the building you mention is the offices of the consular section. Political, economic and other matters are still at Agron, where the Consul-General lives.
But to the politics: A rather disturbing pattern of behavior has emerged from the US Consulate-General in Jerusalem over the past years that would point to a need for Congressional review and oversight.
Except for matters of passports, visas and birth registration, all other activities whether social, educational, scientific, sports, etc. are blatantly discriminatory in that no Jewish American citizen, who lives in the area supervised by the Consulate, can benefit from or take part in. They are intended for Arabs solely.
Jews resident in the area of Judea and Samaria face a policy of exclusion and that, we maintain, would seem to be unconstitutional and illegal. In the same geographical area under the jurisdiction of the Consulate there exist two separate and not equal populations: Jewish and Arab, whether Muslim or Christian.
Is what they are doing legal by American law? Is it in the spirit of the democratic foundations of American democracy? Can the Consulate adopt exclusionist policies that separate between peoples based on race in the same geographic area? Can it create the "state of the West Bank"?
There are almost 350,000 Jewish residents in the communities located in the territory for which the C-G is responsible (the almost 300,000 Jews in the newer Jerusalem neighborhoods and within the Old City is another matter). Almost 15,000 are American citizens. They do not benefit from any of these cultural, social or funding outreach activities and other programs and monies. Jews don't count, other than deserving consular needs like birth registration, visas, etc.
I think it would be a helpful for the House Foreign Relations Committee to hold hearings on the manner in which the US Consulate in Jerusalem is run. Jewish US citizen residents of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria should be brought in to give testimony.