(December 16, 2018 / JNS) Jerusalem’s unofficial response to Australia’s decision to recognize “west Jerusalem” as the capital of Israel was “No, thanks.”
The question of whether Israel should embrace or spurn nations that recognize “west Jerusalem” as Israel’s capital was settled years ago by the Israeli diplomatic establishment. Although there are diplomatic advantages in a recognition of the western half of the city, the final decision was to hold off from accepting such offers.
No sane person doubts Israel’s sovereignty over the western half of the city, and only the status of the eastern half is disputed. Therefore, the minimum expected of nations is recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli, without geographic delineation, as the Americans did.
The statement by the Australians, and by the Russians before them, is obvious and simply unnecessary. The Australian decision is regretful, particularly in light of the high expectations created by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the issue.
But even if Australia has disappointed us now, this is still progress on the Zionist scale. Seventy years ago, no one talked about Jerusalem belonging to Israel. Today, there is no doubt about the west of the city. At this rate, there is a good chance that in 70 more years, the doubts about its eastern half will also dissipate. This should the perspective from which we discuss a city so rich in history, sensitivity, international pressure and holiness to most of humanity.
Morrison, Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, Czech President Miloš Zeman, and the rest of the leaders who have declared support for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital have good and welcome intentions. However, opposing forces in their countries and the rest of the world are still too strong for them to keep their promises.
Still, the return to Zion has taken another small step forward. One day, these leaders’ declarations will become more concrete.
For that to happen, Israel must start building a ring of Jewish neighborhoods around eastern Jerusalem. That is the only way that ideas about dividing the city will be thrown on the ash heap of history, just like the U.N. resolution defining Jerusalem as an international city.
Ariel Kahana is a diplomatic correspondent for Israel Hayom.