Few issues have generated as much controversy in the Israeli Palestinian conflict of late as the issue of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Israel claims Jerusalem as its capital but — for reasons that would take far too long to explore properly — most of the world refuse to fully recognize that fact by establishing their embassies there.
(In summary: the status of Jerusalem is legally contentious with almost the entirety of the international community repudiating the validity of Israel’s annexation of its eastern sector in ’67. Furthermore, the Palestinians have long sought east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Israel’s control over west Jerusalem — those parts of the city to the west of the ’67 / green line — is currently recognized mostly on a de facto basis. However, establishing an embassy accredited to the State of Israel in West Jerusalem would likely be seen as legitimizing Israel’s control over the eastern half of the city. And therefore, until a solution is agreed inter partes — and one that does not involve the use of force — the overwhelming majority of the world’s nations have established their embassies and consulates elsewhere in the country).
Most Embassies Are Located Elsewhere
The above is the reason why most diplomatic missions accredited to the State of Israel are located either in Tel Aviv or (more commonly nowadays) in high rises in nearby Ramat Gan. A couple of embassies and consulates are located elsewhere in the country (Honduras maintains its embassy in Rishon LeTsion).
In addition to the 2 embassies and 9 consulates and consulate-generals listed here Jerusalem is home to several honorary consulates and residences of envoys to the PA.
Honorary consulates are typically manned by unpaid laypeople who fulfill some of the duties which professional consulates do on behalf of countries that do not have budget to establish a professionally-run mission (such as, for instance, issuing emergency passports). Their remuneration is often the prestige they enjoy by being able to erect a plaque attesting to their quasi-diplomatic status over their front door. In Israel, as in most countries, they are often well-connected and affluent expat business people who act as bridges between their former homeland and the location of the posting. Because the locations of these honorary consulates and residences are not marked on Google Maps I have refrained from adding them to my map in order to honor the privacy which these individuals are seeking to maintain. One final note on honorary consuls. As part of its broader attempt to convince the world’s nations to establish professionally-manned embassies in Jerusalem, Israel’s foreign ministry has stated its intention t o refrain from accepting the diplomatic credentials of any new honorary consulates in the city. The decision was not applied retroactively.
Sui Generis Missions
Honorary consuls and consulates aside, the status of the actual (professionally maintained) consulates outlined here is also quite interesting and sui generis in an international sense.
This superb and deep exposition on the topic by Eylon Aslan-Levy (the incongruous and erroneous headline makes me think it was not the author’s own) explains that the missions are hangovers of postings accredited to the corpus separatus envisioned by the United Nations but which ultimately never materialized.
These missions thus maintain a thin semblance of fiction of being accredited to ‘Jerusalem’ — even though Jerusalem is simply a city like Tel Aviv and Haifa. In reality, and for all intents and purposes, they are there to maintain a relationship with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
As Aslan-Levy explains:
None of the countries that have consulates in Jerusalem recognize Israeli sovereignty over the city. Consequently, their official embassies remain in Tel Aviv. Their consulates in Jerusalem are, almost uniquely, accredited to no state. And none of the consuls seek an exequatur, the diplomatic authorization required by international law. Nevertheless, the Israeli Foreign Ministry treats them for all intents and purposes as if they were normal consulates accredited to the State of Israel. Their jurisdiction covers the whole of Jerusalem, as apart from Israel, as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The longstanding practice of Jerusalem consulates reporting directly to their state departments began before the foundation of the state, with the US as the trailblazer in this regard:
According to Daniel Oliver Newberry, the U.S. vice-consul in Jerusalem during the 1940s, the status of the Jerusalem consulate was a matter of dispute within the State Department. “The American ambassador in Tel Aviv [James McDonald] insisted that the consulate general in Jerusalem was a ‘constituent post’ of the American mission in Israel,” Newberry recalled. “He tried to give orders to the consul general in Jerusalem, but the consul general would have none of it.” The consulate insisted on reporting directly to the State Department rather than through an embassy, and continues to do so today
This unusual policy requires some tenacity to maintain on the part of the countries maintaining the missions. This typically manifests in embassies refusing to hold national day celebrations in Jerusalem. And the Jerusalem missions not directly dealing with Israelis state institutions — even when the latter are themselves based in Jerusalem!
For years, according to one WikiLeaks cable, the [US] consulate was “careful not to deal with any Israeli ministry official directly,” even on a social basis, lest it be “interpreted as recognition of their claims to sovereignty over Jerusalem.” When a driver for the Belgian consulate was involved in a deadly road accident in Jerusalem in 1952, Brussels attempted unsuccessfully to deny the jurisdiction of Israeli courts.
Other missions to the PA are based in Ramallah itself, the most modern and international-friendly under the Authority’s control. Some diplomatic missions to the PA which are based in Ramallah maintain residences in East Jerusalem. Like the honorary consulates, I am aware of at least one such mission that is nowhere to be found on a map.
Despite the colorful billboards sometimes seen around Jerusalem promising an influx of embassies on foot of the US’s bold move (see above), Jerusalem is currently only home to the embassies of the United States (US) and one other country: Guetemala. Paraguay briefly relocated its embassy here and then — much to Israel’s chagrin — pulled it back out.
These missions, the two embassies, and a smattering of honorary consulates currently comprise the array of diplomatic missions scattered throughout Jerusalem’s suburbs.
Originally published at https://www.danielrosehill.co.il