IN THE MEDIA

Government’s reversal on Jerusalem a bizarre own-goal

Oct 19, 2022 | Colin Rubenstein

Israel's Knesset in Jerusalem (Image: Shutterstock)
Israel's Knesset in Jerusalem (Image: Shutterstock)

Herald Sun – 19 October 2022

 

The announcement by the Australian Government that it will be reversing the previous government’s decision to recognise west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is very disappointing, and frankly counter-productive to the Albanese government’s own self-declared policy goals.

It is simply not reasonable that Israel alone, of all the countries in the world, is seen as not having the right to choose its own capital, especially since west Jerusalem is not part of the land Israel gained control over in 1967. It has been Israel’s capital since 1950, hosting Israel’s parliament, Israel’s Supreme Court, and most government ministries. When foreign dignitaries travel to Israel, including leaders of Arab countries, they meet Israeli leaders in Jerusalem.

Moreover, no one doubts that west Jerusalem will remain in Israel after any final status negotiations with the Palestinians. The refusal to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital previously was not because of Palestinian demands but because of a long defunct proposal back in the 1940s that Jerusalem should become a UN-controlled international city.

Subsequently, the main argument offered for not changing the bizarre situation whereby countries refused to recognise Israel’s right to choose its own capital was that altering the existing long-standing policy might spark an angry or violent reaction, especially by the Palestinians.

But Israel should not be treated differently from every other country just because Palestinian intransigence has currently made final status negotiations impossible, despite three previous Israeli offers of a Palestinian state with a capital in east Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority has refused to even negotiate with Israel since 2014.

Moreover, while there can be plausible criticisms of the way the Morrison government undertook the decision to recognise west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it simply makes no sense to reverse the decision now. Any angry Palestinian reaction – which was actually pretty mild – has already happened.

Furthermore, by far the greatest obstacle to a two-state peace between Israelis and Palestinians is the Palestinian intransigence noted above. The Palestinians have long refused to make the compromises essential for peace, such as genuinely accepting Israel’s right to exist in peace as a Jewish state.

Instead, they seek to demonise Israel in international fora, hoping they can eventually achieve their state without having needed to compromise.

When governments such as ours take steps that treat Israel differently to all other countries, the Palestinians see it as vindication of their tactics, making them even less likely to negotiate or compromise.

Thus, this decision by the government appears a pointless own goal, both undermining its self-declared policy of seeking to encourage a negotiated two-state Israeli-Palestinian peace, while potentially denting Australia’s credibility with some of our closest allies.

Dr. Colin Rubenstein is Executive Director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC). 

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