Pennsylvania politicians across the political spectrum are agreeing on at least one thing these days: the importance of keeping the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia open.
And they are making their views known by publicly urging the Israeli government not to shutter the office that serves the mid-Atlantic and beyond.
Israeli officials have confirmed they are considering the closure as a cost-cutting measure so other diplomatic missions could open, possibly in China. They say that offices in Boston, Washington, D.C., and New York could provide services for the mid-Atlantic region.
But so far, no action has been taken one way or another.
Gov. Tom Corbett and U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, both Republicans, have sent letters to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent weeks, as have Democrats U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
Schwartz, who is from Montgomery County and running for governor, stated that ensuring that the Israeli office stays open is one of her “highest priorities.”
“I am proud of the role that the Greater Philadelphia region plays in accelerating U.S.-Israeli business development, advocating pro-Israeli causes, and strengthening cultural, political and philanthropic ties between our countries,” wrote Schwartz, who is the state’s only Jewish member of Congress. “Any decision to close” the consulate “would weaken ties between our region” and Israeli entities.
Toomey and Casey both appealed to Netanyahu, who went to Cheltenham High School, in part on the basis of the Israeli leader’s personal connections to the area.
“As you will remember from your time living in our beautiful region, Philadelphia is a vibrant economic, political and cultural hub for the East Coast,” wrote Casey. “Curtailing Israel’s official representation in Philadelphia would adversely impact the historically strong ties that Pennsylvanians have enjoyed with Israel.”
During a recent visit to Israel, Nutter also told Israeli President Shimon Peres and Foreign Ministry officials that the consulate should remain open. Nutter said after the trip that Peres and Liora Herzl, assistant deputy foreign minister, promised they would raise the issue with Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.
After his return, Nutter sent a letter to Netanyahu, stating that closing the consulate “would be a setback to the strong relationship enjoyed between Israel and Philadelphia.”