A general view of Jerusalem's old city shows the Dome of the Rock in the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, October 25, 2015.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
‘Thank you Australia for recognizing west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital!” the Mossad’s parody account said on Twitter. “In return we have recognized North Canberra.”
This recalls the oft-repeated joke that in light of the ongoing “yellow vest” riots in Paris, Jerusalem will not recognize French sovereignty on both sides of the River Seine until there is a final-status agreement.
All joking aside, there is something absurd about the Australian recognition of the heretofore unknown entity of “west Jerusalem” as Israel’s capital, much like Russia’s recognition in April 2017.
“Australia now recognizes west Jerusalem, being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday. ”We look forward to moving our embassy to west Jerusalem when practical.”
Jerusalem has been a united city for the past 51 years, and while there have been quite a few bumps over the decade and the unification is an imperfect one, it is a fact.
As things stand, both Israel and the Palestinians want their capital to include the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Jewish national movement is Zionism, meaning it is based on a return to Zion, another word for the ancient Jewish capital of Jerusalem. Israelis know what Jerusalem was like before the city was united under Israel. Jews had very limited access to our holiest sites – the Temple Mount as well its supporting Western Wall – for centuries; and between 1948 and 1967, none at all.
Thus, we are not willing to give up on this aspiration easily. According to an Israel Democracy Institute Peace Index poll taken a year ago, 72% of Jewish Israelis “believe that following a comprehensive and stable peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, Jerusalem should remain united and the capital of Israel.” Only 12% of Jewish Israelis believe the western part of the city should remain Israel’s capital and the eastern the capital of a Palestinian state. As for what they realistically think will happen, half said the former, and about a quarter said the latter.
The Palestinians also demand Jerusalem as their capital, including Judaism’s holiest sites.
This is another case where, as the axiom in peace talks goes: “Israelis’ maximum doesn’t meet the Palestinians’ minimum.”
The situation could change. But no one, not even the soothsaying diplomats in Canberra and Moscow, knows what the future holds or what formula could bring the two sides to an agreement. This isn’t unique to just Russia and Australia; many others have said they will move their embassies to the so-called “west Jerusalem” when there is peace.
That is why the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, without any caveats, makes more sense.
When US President Donald Trump announced on December 6, 2017, that he has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – better 50 years late than never – he also said: “We are not taking a position of any final-status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.”
Trump did not say if the city should be divided or not. He did not say there’s a west and an east to the city.
Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, and what Jerusalem means is up for negotiation, is what Trump said.
That is the position of a fair broker. The American position on Jerusalem recognizes that Israelis and Palestinians are the ones who actually have to live here, so we are the ones who have to agree to a livable solution.
Imposing foreign ideas on populations that are not only uninterested in them, but actively oppose them, has not only proven to be ineffective, but can be damaging. This is true not only in Israel, but also in Australia – just ask its Aboriginal population – or in any other country that faces territorial conflicts.
Canberra should reconsider its unilateral division of Jerusalem and leave the city’s status open to the people whose voices really need to be heard in this case.
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