(December 16, 2018 / JNS) I am not particularly enthusiastic about Australia’s recognition of “west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” while its embassy remains in Tel Aviv.
On the other hand, anyone with a desire to repartition Jerusalem is cordially invited to send Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison a nice “thank you” card. Morrison, after all, declared his country’s recognition for half of Jerusalem, which essentially means redividing the Israeli capital into two cities.
The declaration apparently stems from internal political considerations. Similar to the Netanyahu government, the Morrison government hinges on a minuscule parliamentary majority. His is not a principled recognition of a united Jerusalem, but an announcement that may, perhaps, sway some Jewish voters in Australia. From this perspective alone, Morrison is a disappointment: He is an evangelist, but seems far from his evangelical friends who very vocally and passionately promote the biblical connection between the land of Israel and the people of Israel.
It means that Australia has decided, even before negotiations with the Palestinians, that so-called “east Jerusalem” will be the capital of a Palestinian state, if one is established. This is a unilateralist, premature determination that should have been withheld until the sides properly negotiate the matter.
In Europe, under very different international circumstances, the government of West Germany decided many years ago to relocate its capital from a divided Berlin to the nondescript city of Bonn. Democratic West Germany could not come to terms with the Berlin Wall splitting the city in two.
If the Australian government recognizes only half of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, will Israel acknowledge this gesture, which predetermines the repartitioning of Jerusalem? We hope that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is appropriately questioning the move through the proper channels. The Netanyahu government should not accept a “half-recognition” of this sort. On the matter of Jerusalem—the “heart of the conflict”—Israel’s right-wing government should insist on the united city principle, under one sovereign country and beholden to one law enforced equally in both parts of the city.
We should note that Morrison’s declaration has already reverberated near and far: Muslim countries Indonesia and Malaysia will certainly scale back relations with Australia, the regional power. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, and it is not for nothing that Morrison’s first trip abroad as prime minister was to Jakarta, the Indonesian capital. Indonesia has already frozen negotiations with Australia over a substantial trade agreement. Other countries in the Arab-Muslim world have also condemned Australia. They did so after Morrison first announced he was “pondering” the gesture.
Australia’s opposition Labor party is also criticizing the move.
We should express our reserved appreciation for the Australian gesture, but we also wish that it and many other countries one day recognize all of Jerusalem and move their embassies there.
Yaakov Ahimeir is a senior Israeli journalist, and a television and radio personality.