IN THE MEDIA
Rejecting West Jerusalem Step in the Wrong Direction
Oct 21, 2022 | Michael Rubin
The Daily Telegraph – 21 October 2022
The Australian government has confirmed that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s Labor government has reversed Australia’s position and no longer recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Cabinet and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)’s decision sets back peace and diplomacy and encourages more Palestinian rejectionism.
Four years ago, Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the right move when he ordered Australia to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, even as he did not move Australia’s embassy. Recognition was a common sense move. Israel’s president and prime minister reside in Jerusalem, and the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, is in the city. So too are most ministries. When the Israeli government subsequently summoned the Australian ambassador to hear a protest of the move, the Australian ambassador traveled to Jerusalem where the business of government is done.
Nor did Morrison’s move come out of the blue. More than a dozen countries recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. When Israel and the overwhelmingly Muslim country of Kosovo established diplomatic relations, Kosovo established its embassy in Jerusalem. The United States had not only recognized Jerusalem as its capital in 2017, but it had also formally moved its embassy from Tel Aviv, a decision to which the Biden administration adheres. While some diplomats and academics worried at the time that the decision would incite the Arab world and light it on fire, Arabs from Morocco to Iraq met the news not with a bang but with a whimper. Even the Palestinian street was quiet. The top Palestinian concern today is the corruption of their government, led by Mahmoud Abbas, a president who is in the 17th year of his four-year term. The 2011 Arab Spring protests demonstrated that the issues of greatest concern to Arabs were internal to their own countries; they no longer would allow their leaders to use Israel as a distraction. Indeed, this was a major reason why the Abraham Accords succeeded even against the backdrop of cynicism within the State Department, British Foreign Office and DFAT.
Australia’s recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital advanced peace. The biggest challenge to peace between Israel and the Palestinians has in recent decades been Palestinian rejectionism. In 2000, Palestinian Chairman Yasir Arafat turned down a peace deal brokered by U.S. President Bill Clinton and agreed to by his own negotiators, without ever making a counter proposal. Eight years later, history repeated when Abbas turned down an offer by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert under which the Palestinians would have received more than 100 percent of the total territory they sought, either directly or via land swaps. Again, the Palestinian Authority made no counter proposal The reason has simply been an unwillingness to live side-by-side with the Jewish state.
Such rejectionism manifests itself further with Abbas’ Holocaust denial and his effort to deny any Jewish ties to Jerusalem. While Israel seeks Jerusalem unity, recognizing West Jerusalem as the capital should not be controversial. After all, West Jerusalem is fully within Israel’s 1949 borders. Even ardent critics of Israel do not consider it “occupied.” To deny even West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is to encourage Palestinian radicals to believe they can erase Jews entirely from Jerusalem and end the Jewish state. In contrast, to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is to signal that the extremists’ insistence on Israel’s illegitimacy and their fantasy of Israel’s eradication are non-starters. Unfortunately, on issues of peace and recognition of reality, Albanese now orients Australia with Iran and Syria rather than those countries like Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates that have embraced peace.
While those seeking to revert Canberra’s recognition of West Jerusalem encourage Abbas’ intransigence, the issue goes beyond Jerusalem, especially after Abbas broke with the West, traveled to Moscow and offered full-throated endorsement of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Such timing suggests a deep lack of seriousness in Australian policy circles that will damage Australia’s brand far beyond the Jerusalem question. The West should stand firm against also revanchist dictators; it should not seek to normalize them.
Albanese and his Labor party should hold the line. Normalization and growing Arab-Israel peace mark a path to the future. Traditional formulas and past conventional wisdom do not. It is time to calibrate policy to reality and to signal that Palestinians must compromise, and that Abbas’ rejectionism will never work. Most importantly, Australia’s voice for moral clarity and its contribution to international diplomacy should be too important to squander.