Ambassador Judith Várnai Shorer, Israel's consul general to the Southeast

Ambassador Judith Várnai Shorer, Israel’s consul general to the Southeast

The Israeli Consulate in Atlanta is targeted for closure under the budget Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet approved Thursday, Aug. 6.

The Consulate General to the Southeast joins the consulates in Philadelphia and San Francisco and at least four embassies on the chopping block in an effort to cut 55 million shekels ($14.3 million) a year from the Foreign Ministry’s budget, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Local sources confirmed that the Atlanta consulate is on the list, creating the first challenge for Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer, who took over as consul general this month.

Israel has floated the idea of closing the consulate before, but this is the first time in decades. Meanwhile, the Jewish and Israeli populations in Atlanta and the Southeast have grown, dozens of Israeli businesses have found homes here, and the consulate has scored state legislative successes from purchases of Israel Bonds to boycotts of Iran.

The Atlanta consulate serves the Carolinas, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. If it closed, the nearest Israeli diplomats would be in Miami and Houston.

Conexx: America Israel Business Connector President Guy Tessler credited the consulate with putting those six states on the map for U.S.-Israel business ties and noted recent business-generating missions to Israel from Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina. Shorer is joining Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on a trip to Israel at the end of August.

“This level of activity can only come when there is a strong focus on this region,” Tessler said. “It’s possible that from Houston or Miami some of our states will be underserved and opportunities are going to be missed.”

The budget faces several Knesset votes before final approval, due by mid-November. Philadelphia fought off a similar budget threat in 2013 through public protests.

Written support can be sent to the consulate at pr@atlanta.mfa.gov.il or 1100 Spring St., Suite 440, Atlanta, GA 30309.