Biden's Anti-Israel Gambit in Jerusalem Undermines American Sovereignty | Opinion

The Palestinian Authority is waging lawfare against the United States. And rather than defend America, the Biden administration has joined the Palestinian lawfare campaign against it. That is how the Biden administration's recent decision to initiate steps to form a separate diplomatic mission to the Palestinians in Israel's capital ought to be understood.

Earlier this month, The Washington Free Beacon revealed that the administration has decided to separate the Palestinian Affairs Unit from its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem. The head of the "unit" will be an ambassador in all but name—directly appointed by the secretary of state and subordinate to him in the chain of command. Today, in accordance with the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, the head of the Palestinian section of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem is subordinate to the U.S. ambassador to Israel.

The declared goal of the administration is to fulfill President Joe Biden's campaign pledge to open a consulate for the Palestinians in Israel's capital city. The move has been stymied to date by strong congressional disapproval and by the fact that such a move is unlawful—under both U.S. and international law—unless Israel approves it. But Israel vigorously opposes Biden's position, which it views as hostile to Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.

Israel, obviously, is correct. Biden's efforts to open a consulate to the Palestinians, whose leadership rejects Israel's very right to exist in Israel's capital, is most certainly hostile to Israel. The international law requirement is that a foreign government wishing to open a diplomatic legation in one nation's capital to a different nation first must receive the permission of the sovereign. That is commonsensical. And Biden's efforts to do just that in Jerusalem—but without Israel's permission—is an assault on Israeli sovereignty.

But to understand why Biden's efforts are not simply anti-Israel but also anti-American, and involve complicity in Palestinian lawfare against the United States itself, requires a longer explanation.

Lawfare has been broadly defined as the abuse of international institutions and the language of law (legalese), rather than actual laws, to pursue strategic aims. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its allies have long used lawfare as an adjunct to terrorism in their war to annihilate the Jewish state.

Initially, the PLO focused almost exclusively on terrorism. Its 1964 charter made this explicit, defining "armed struggle" (i.e., terrorism) as "the only way to liberate Palestine."

"This is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase," Article 9 of the charter declared.

After Israel defeated the combined armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria in 1967, and again defeated the Syrians and Egyptians in 1973, the PLO began to adapt its strategy. In 1974, it produced what it referred to as the "Phased Plan" to destroy the Jewish state. The plan involved expanding the PLO's operations from terrorism only to "all means, and first and foremost armed struggle, to liberate Palestinian territory and to establish the independent combatant national authority for the people over every part of Palestinian territory that is liberated."

The next year, with Soviet-bloc support, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 3379, which labeled Zionism—the Jewish national liberation movement—as a form of racism. And the Palestinian lawfare campaign was off to a running start.

U.S. President Joe Biden meets with Israeli
U.S. President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office at the White House on August 27, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Sarahbeth Maney-Pool/Getty Images

During the 1990s, in the framework of the peace process between Israel and the PLO, the two sides agreed that territories Israel transferred to PLO control would be governed by an autonomous Palestinian governing authority it dubbed the Palestinian Authority (PA). The agreements that both sides signed stipulated that the PA would not be a state, and would not operate against Israel in international organizations or apply for membership in international organizations as a state.

In a New York Times op-ed in 2011, PLO chief and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas announced the PA was ignoring its obligations to Israel in material breach of the agreements he himself signed. Abbas launched a campaign to have "Palestine" accepted as a member-state in international institutions—first and foremost, the United Nations—and to use that membership as a means to expand its lawfare against Israel. As he put it, "Palestine's admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice."

Since then, Abbas and the PA have inexorably escalated their lawfare to delegitimize Israel's very existence in international forums and to demonize the Jewish state and Israel's Jewish supporters worldwide.

In 2018, Abbas and his PLO/PA turned their lawfare campaign against a new target: the United States. In May 2018, in accordance with U.S. and international law, then-President Donald Trump opened the U.S. embassy in Israel's capital, Jerusalem. Four months later, the Palestinian Authority, acting as the nonexistent "State of Palestine," sued the U.S. in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. The Palestinian lawsuit asks the ICJ to compel the U.S. to remove its embassy from Israel's capital.

The case is still open before the court. An administration committed to maintaining U.S. sovereignty and the rule of law—not to mention standing by its greatest Middle East ally—would, at a minimum, demand that the PLO/PA withdraw its lawsuit as a precondition for holding any discussions about U.S. diplomatic operations in Jerusalem. A more robust U.S. policy would include suspending all U.S. financial support and diplomatic contacts with the PLO/PA so long as the Palestinians maintain their lawfare campaign against the U.S. in The Hague.

The Biden administration's decision to separate the Palestinian Affairs Unit away from the U.S. embassy, as a first step toward opening a distinct consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem, while the PLO/PA's lawsuit against the United States is still pending before the ICJ, does the opposite. It boosts the Palestinians' specious claims against America and encourages the PLO/PA and all other would-be U.S. antagonists to turn to transnational institutions to whittle away the authority of U.S. and international law, and to undermine American sovereignty.

Caroline B. Glick is a Newsweek columnist, senior columnist at Israel Hayom and the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East, (Crown Forum, 2014). From 1994 to 1996, she served as a core member of Israel's negotiating team with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.