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Israeli Consular Official Sees Hope of Keeping Philadelphia Office

By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- An official with the Israeli consulate in Philadelphia today told members of the Klein Active Adult Center, in Elkins Park, that he was "hopeful" that there would soon be good news about keeping the consulate office here open.

Ever the diplomat, deputy consul general Elad Strohmayer said it's up to  the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs how to manage the nine consulates in the US, including the Philadelphia office, where he is stationed.

"We think that there's going to be a positive outcome, but I cannot officially comment on that right now," he said.  "I hope to, soon."

In recent weeks, reports began surfacing that Israel was considering closing its Philadelphia consulate (see related story), prompting an online petition as well as an immediate letter-writing campaign by Governor Corbett, Mayor Nutter, and local members of Congress.

Strohmayer says supporters made a strong case, pointing to the percentage of Israeli exports to the US that pass through this region each year.

"I think a quarter of it is done through Philadelphia International Airport.   That's a huge number, and it shows significant ties to the region," he said.

Strohmayer also discussed current affairs, including whether it was wise to ease punishing sanctions on Iran for freezing its nuclear program.

"It's psychologically challenging, because it took us ten years to where we reached today with the sanctions," he said.

Regarding the Mideast talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Strohmayer said many people do not realize that there is "cooperation all of the time at low levels" on security, water, and civil issues.

And Strohmayer quoted prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the idea of a Palestinian state:

"He said that it's going to be 'two states for two people.'  That's a compromise for Israel."

Netanyahu says it can happen as long as Israel's security demands are met and the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

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