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January 07, 2016

Israel consulate in Philadelphia to close

Costs cited as reason for shutting down consulate

Israel will close its consulate in Philadelphia in order to save money, news that was announced just one day after American Airlines ended its nonstop route from Philly to Tel Aviv and a few days after Michael Nutter, who visited Israel twice for trade talks, left office.

As the Jerusalem Post reported, Israel's foreign ministry is also closing its consulates for cities in Belarus, El Salvador, France and the Caribbean. Israel wanted to shut down the Philadelphia consulate two years ago, but it reversed course after opposition from local Jewish groups, including the Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce.

Israel has an embassy in Washington and consulates in eight other U.S. cities, the closest one being New York.

"We’re obviously disappointed given our sister city relationship with Tel Aviv, and we’ll be reaching out to them to see if there’s anything we can do to change their decision," Mayor Jim Kenney's spokeswoman, Lauren Hitt, told PhillyVoice. "But regardless of the outcome of those conversations, we are still committed to maintaining a positive relationship and open dialogue with our Israeli residents."

Former mayor Michael Nutter was a strong supporter of economic ties with Israel and made two trade visits to the country, once in 2013 and again in July. The Philadelphia Business Journal reported at the time that candidate Kenney had criticized the cost of international trips and was not planning to embark on any trade missions during his first term if elected.

However, Hitt said the mayor is open to the possibility of a trade mission.

"We’ll be discussing with the former members of the consulate as well as Israeli citizens living in Philadelphia the best way to do that moving forward – whether it’s trips or something else," she said.