Sunday 16 December 2018

Jerusalem as the capital

of Israel or Palestine or both is a contentious issue, very contentious.
I heard the Downunder Prime Minister described as "the biggest idiot out"  yesterday when it was announced that the government would recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Saeb Erekat, one of the chief negotiators/diplomats on the Palestinian side is reportedly furious. 
    "And it won't help relationships in Asia," the person who was speaking spluttered, "It's done nothing but harm and it will lose more votes at the next election than it gains...not that they will win anyway and serve them right."
I said nothing. I was not going to enter an argument.
But there are two things that need to be recognised about the announcement. The first is that the announcement said "West Jerusalem". It doesn't say all of Jerusalem. Further along in the announcement it said that East Jerusalem would be recognised as the capital of Palestine when the issue is resolved and Palestine achieves the status it is seeking.  The second is that it was also said that the Downunder embassy would not be shifted  until the issues were resolved.
Now if it the announcement had simply said "Jerusalem" and that the embassy would be shifted I would be opposed to it. As it is I have some reservations but perhaps it is the right thing to do. It tells both sides "this is what we believe the outcome should be and will be but we aren't going to fully acknowledge it by shifting the embassy".  (Of course it also helps to have the embassy in Tel Aviv when most other countries do as well.) 
It is a "carrot" rather than a "stick" announcement. It acknowledges reality - the reality that the Knesset meets in Jerusalem.
Our near neighbours are unhappy of course. They would like to be able to dictate our foreign policies with respect to such things. They see it as, at best, "unhelpful" and, at worst, provocative.
All the same it would be good to consider what wasn't said - and hope that this means something positive.

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