Almost seven weeks after the Knesset passed a budget that squeezed about $14 million a year from the foreign ministry to increase spending elsewhere, the ministry announced Wednesday, Jan. 6, that it would close five foreign missions, including the consulate in Philadelphia. But the list spared Atlanta and San Francisco, both of which were targeted in the draft budget released Aug. 6.
“We are very happy that the Consulate General of Israel in the Southeast will remain open,” Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer, who became consul general at the Midtown office just days before the summer budget announcement, said in a statement Jan. 7. “We believe it is a wise decision for many reasons. The Consulate General is a vital location for the six states in our region. The growing Jewish, African-American, Hispanic and evangelical communities are a consistent source of support for Israel, and the economic impact the Southeast region and Israel are creating together is extremely significant.”
Atlanta’s consulate serves Georgia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. In addition to Atlanta and San Francisco and the embassy in Washington, Israel plans to maintain missions in New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Houston and Los Angeles.
Besides Philadelphia, Israel is closing the consulate in Marseilles, France, and the embassies in Belarus and El Salvador, and it is eliminating its New York-based ambassador to the Caribbean, according to a ministry statement reported by The Jerusalem Post.
A consulate statement reiterated what Shorer told the AJT last year: The Israeli government was flooded with letters, email messages and phone calls urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to leave the Southeast without Israeli representation between Miami and Houston.
“We thank everyone for supporting the Consulate General, and we will continue to serve the Southeast region diligently,” Shorer said.