The White House walked back remarks by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Tuesday after the Russia hoaxer errantly claimed that President Joe Biden is seeking to open a new U.S. consulate in “East Jerusalem” for Palestinians.
White House spokesperson John Kirby walked back that remark, reassuring Israel that there had been no change in U.S. policy after Sullivan made the error in briefing reporters on Air Force One en route to Israel on Biden’s Middle East trip.
The Times of Israel reported:
Asked about the potential of reopening the Jerusalem consulate that served Palestinians, Sullivan said that it is the US’s position “that we would like a consulate in East Jerusalem, obviously that requires engagement with the Israeli government, that requires engagement with the Palestinian leadership as well, and we will continue that engagement on this trip.”
Reuters later reported the administration’s clarification:
The White House spokesperson John Kirby said National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan misspoke on Wednesday when he told reporters that the United States wished for a Palestinian consulate in East Jerusalem.
Kirby said there was no change in U.S. policy regarding the consulate.
Sullivan’s error repeated an mistake that Biden made on the campaign trail, when he sought to appease his party’s left-wing faction by promising to “reopen the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem.” He meant to refer to the former U.S. consulate in western Jerusalem, which President Donald Trump and Ambassador David Friedman converted into an “annex”of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem in 2019. The consulate had previously been frequented by pro-Palestinian interest groups.
With an embassy in Israel’s capital city, there was no longer any need for a consulate, nor legal justification for one. Biden sought to reopen a consulate in Jerusalem to cater specifically to Palestinians, but ran afoul of U.S. law and Israeli policy. Such a consulate would have violated the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 and would have divided Jerusalem diplomatically. Instead, Biden moved responsibility for Palestinian affairs from the U.S. embassy to the State Department in Washington.
Biden appeared to accept defeat on the consulate issue last year — until Sullivan’s statement created new confusion about the president’s intentions.
Sullivan was one of the chief proponents of the “Russia collusion” hoax, which was later disproven.