The Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia is dismissing as mere “speculation” a news report that Israel is considering closing one of its diplomatic missions — perhaps the one in Philadelphia — in order to open another in China where it desires closer relations.
The Philadelphia consulate has jurisdiction over the Pittsburgh area.
“If a consulate opens in China, Israel will probably close one somewhere else,” said a consulate spokesman who requested anonymity. “It could be anywhere in the world and there is no reason to believe it would be in Philadelphia. Anything else is pure speculation.”
The Jerusalem Post reported Oct. 11 that Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin said at a recent ministry meeting that the Philadelphia consulate could be closed since Israel has other missions in New York, Washington and even Boston that could cover Philadelphia’s jurisdiction.
That jurisdiction includes Delaware, Kentucky, southern New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The Post story also named other missions that could possibly be shut down in favor of a China consulate, including one of its Israel embassies in Belarus, Albania or El Salvador, or a consulate in St. Petersburg or Marseilles.
Many Pittsburgh Jewish leaders reached by the Chronicle were reluctant to comment on the report until there’s a more substantial development, though Stuart Pavilack, executive director of the Zionist Organization of America- Pittsburgh District said it would be “a huge blow to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and the state” were it to happen.
“Many Jewish individuals and organizations interact with that office on a regular basis,” he said. “Whether it be a military base, post office or in this case, a consulate, no one wants to see ‘theirs’ closed.”
A senior Chinese Communist Party official, Liu Qibao, visited Israel earlier this month and told the Post in an interview, “The Chinese and the Jews are both great nations in the world with long histories and splendid cultures.” He touted cultural exchanges between the two countries and noted the “touching stories” of Chinese and Jews who helped each other during World War II.
“The friendship between our two peoples makes us feel warm in heart and also lays the solid foundation for the comprehensive development of China-Israel relationship,” he said.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at email@example.com.)