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AIJAC expresses deep disappointment over government’s reversal on Jerusalem

Oct 19, 2022 | AIJAC

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) has expressed its deep disappointment with the Federal Government’s decision to reverse its predecessor’s recognition of west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, calling the announcement “a pointless own goal” which appears to undermine the government’s own self-declared Mideast policy.

According to AIJAC Executive Director Dr Colin Rubenstein, “This decision by the Government is not only deeply disappointing, but appears a pointless own goal, undermining the Government’s self-declared policy of seeking to encourage a negotiated two-state Israeli-Palestinian peace. The reversal also risks denting Australia’s credibility with some of our closest allies.”

He added that, “In 2018, the Morrison Government recognised west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, whilst acknowledging that the Palestinians seek a state with their capital in east Jerusalem. This should not be controversial and predictions of violence and blowback in the Arab world as a result of the announcement never occurred. Although we appreciate that the Labor Party was critical of the Morrison Government for announcing the change during a byelection, all that announcement did was simply recognise the reality that west Jerusalem has been sovereign Israeli territory since 1948 and Israel’s capital since 1950 – well before Israel took control over the West Bank or any controversies related to this.

“Israel’s Parliament, the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister’s residence, and most of the ministries are located in west Jerusalem. Foreign dignitaries and ministers, including those from both Australia and major Arab nations, meet their counterparts in Jerusalem when visiting Israel.

“West Jerusalem will always be part of Israel and no serious peace proposal has ever suggested Israel should give it up. So the decision to withdraw recognition of Israel’s right to choose its own capital on its own sovereign territory is frankly bizarre.”

“Furthermore”, he added, “this decision is likely to further encourage the rejectionist tendencies of the Palestinian Authority which has spent the past 20 years rebuffing Israeli peace offers, and has refused to restart the peace talks it abandoned in 2014. By treating Israel differently to all other countries, the government is effectively rewarding this Palestinian intransigence, making Palestinian leaders even less likely to negotiate or compromise.”

Dr Rubenstein also called the timing of the government’s announcement “odd”, noting that it occurred just days after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held an obsequious meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, offering no criticism of his invasion of Ukraine.

Rubenstein explained that the international community’s refusal to recognise west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is not about Palestinian demands but a historic relic of the UN Partition Plan from 1947 that proposed the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state with Jerusalem to become an international city.

“That plan was never implemented because Arab leaders rejected a peaceful solution and chose war. Jordanian forces conquered the eastern half of the city, exiled its Jewish residents and destroyed the Jewish Quarter, including dozens of synagogues. And until 1967, Jews were forbidden from visiting east Jerusalem. The Trump Administration’s decision in 2017 to recognise Jerusalem overturned a charade and accorded Israel the right that every other country enjoys, which is to determine for itself where its capital is,” Dr Rubenstein said.

“In reversing the previous government’s sensible decision to no longer be party to this charade, the Albanese Government is undertaking an action which appears frankly counter-productive to its own self-declared policy goals,” Rubenstein concluded.

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