25 Mar This year in Jerusalem – Australian Jewish News
In his maiden speech to Parliament, newly minted Liberal senator James Paterson has called for Australia to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a proposal we applaud.
The senator has correctly identified the anomaly of all countries, including some of Israel’s closer friends, stationing their diplomatic representation in Tel Aviv instead. The last Jerusalem embassies, belonging to El Salvador and Costa Rica, were relocated in 2006.
As Paterson explained in his parliamentary speech and in an AJN interview, locating embassies in Tel Aviv reflects a widespread rejection of Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its capital. He points out no other country designating a city as its capital is second-guessed on its claim, with embassies elsewhere. Why should Israel be the exception?
These diplomatic acrobatics stem from the misguided notion that Palestinian claims to east Jerusalem must be heeded, pending an ultimate negotiated settlement However, it is sadly obvious a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace is a way off, given the Palestinian Authority’s recalcitrance and its cyclical indulgence in widespread waves of violence against Israeli civilians, while in Gaza, Hamas openly calls for Israel’s annihilation.
Moreover, Palestinian claims to east Jerusalem are tenuous. Jerusalem was to be an international city under the partition plan adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1947. Jerusalem’s international status, along with portions of British Mandated Palestine allocated to Arab Palestinians under the partition became casualties of the Arabs’ rejection of the plan and its bloody 1948 war against the nascent Jewish State.
Nineteen years of Jordanian rule of east Jerusalem ended in 1967 when the city was reunited under Israel during the Six-Day War. Jerusalem’s predominant Jewish character is underscored by history and demographics and its future as Israel’s eternal capital is a principle shared virtually across the Israeli political spectrum. What’s more, Israelis have been fair, reliable custodians of the city’s Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites, in stark contrast to the Jordanians from 1948-67.
Further, whether or not a future Palestinian state is accorded rights over Cast Jerusalem, it should not impact on Israel’s claim to the city, or the rest of it at least, as its own capital. After all, for thousands of years Jerusalem has beenthe centre of the Jewish world. It is at the heart of both our identity as Jews and our national identity as Zionists.
In short, Israel is fully justified in designating Jerusalem as its capital and it would be appropriate for Australia, the United States and other nations to honour Israel’s call. It would also be a pragmatic move, as Australian diplomats are commuting between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to handle matters relating to the Knesset, which of course, is located in Jerusalem.
A lot will depend on the leadership of the United States, which has been mulling a switch of embassy to Jerusalem for many years. But that does not mean Australia cannot act with independence and foresight, and lead the way.