The Israeli Consulate in Atlanta is threatened with closure for the second time in Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer’s 2½ years as consul general.
The Midtown office, which represents Israel and serves Israelis in seven states, is on a list of seven of Israel’s 103 diplomatic missions scheduled to be closed by 2022 under a 2019 budget the Israeli government approved Friday, Jan. 12. The Finance Ministry, saying it needs to pay for nearly $12 million in pay raises approved for Foreign Affairs Ministry staff the past few years, initially proposed closing 22 diplomatic offices.
Each mission costs $3.4 million to $4.4 million per year to operate, Haaretz reported.
The current plan is to shutter the Atlanta office, a consulate in India, and embassies in Ireland, Belarus, Eritrea, the Dominican Republic, and either Latvia or Lithuania, Yedioth Aharonoth reported.
A Foreign Affairs Ministry statement, however, said the seven missions being closed haven’t been chosen, The Times of Israel said. A committee is supposed to make recommendations by Friday, Jan. 19.
“Atlanta’s name came up again,” Shorer said.
Ultimately, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also the foreign minister, will make the decision by the end of the month.
The proposed closings come as Israel faces increasing diplomatic pressure in the United Nations and Europe to make concessions to the Palestinians and as the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement becomes more aggressive in trying to isolate Israel culturally and economically.
The news also comes just before dozens of leaders from Jewish organizations in Atlanta embark on a mission to Israel and as Shorer is trying to finalize plans for the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra to tour her region in celebration of Israel’s 70th birthday.
“I think that people in Israel do not understand enough the energy and the ability that lies here in the Southeast, and with this concert and with this tribute to the 70th birthday of Israel, we can show it,” Shorer said.
The Atlanta consulate is still adjusting to the changes made its Philadelphia counterpart closed in 2016. The initial shutdown list in August 2015 included Atlanta and San Francisco, but both were spared.
Still, the territory of the Israeli Consulate to the Southeast shifted, with Mississippi and Alabama becoming the responsibility of the office in Miami and Atlanta adding Kentucky, Missouri and West Virginia to Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.
It’s not clear how the seven other consulates in the United States would divide the territory if Atlanta closed.