Saturday, December 15, 2018

Saturday Morning Musings: the Australian decision on Jerusalem

I have now added some contract policy writing to my other writing. I need the money, but it has further slowed me down. Oh well. I have continued to follow events, however. It remains a strange old world.

 In my post that dealt in part with the Wentworth by-election I referenced in part the Australian Prime Minister's statement on the possible move of the Australian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. There I said:
 Prime Minister Morrison then threw another curled ball, announcing that at the suggestion of Dave Sharma the Government was considering shifting the Australian embassy to Jerusalem. This was in fact part of a broader statement including apparent continuing recognition of East Jerusalem as capital of an independent Palestinian state and needs to be seen in that context, but the timing and the reference suggested an attempt to woo the Jewish vote. If so, that was a serious error of judgement at several levels. Wentworth includes many Liberal Jews who do not necessarily support the current Israeli Government position as well as many centre or centre left voters sympathetic to the Palestinian position. 
The reactions since have been quite polarised. Those on the right have been angry because other countries might react negatively. "They shouldn't tell us what to do." Those on the left have been angry because they see it as affirming Israel's claims over Jerusalem as capital to the detriment of the Palestinian cause. And never the twain shall meet.

As I write, ABC news reports that the Australian Prime Minister is about to announce that the Australian Government will recognise West Jerusalem (my bold) as the capital of Israel but will not immediately move its embassy from Tel Aviv. He is also expected to acknowledge the aspirations of Palestinians for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem (my bold). 

I'm not sure that I see why Australia should have become involved in this matter in such an overt way. I also note the irony that it is the right that should be so pro-Israel. After all, antisemitism was and indeed still is a thread in right wing political thought. That said, the decision may well meet the diplomacy test of leaving everyone dissatisfied.

Israel, or at least the current Government with its claims over all Jerusalem, can hardly welcome the idea that Australia has recognised its claims only over the west of the city. The Palestinians and their supporters many of whom deny Israeli claims even to West Jerusalem may well react angrily.

Leaving aside the wisdom of becoming involved in the first place and subject to the exact wording of the PM's statement, it's an apparent decision that I find hard to argue against. It limits Israeli claims, affirms to some degree the Palestinian position and provides a base for future even policy. Which is not something that those on the right appear to have wanted.      


marcellous said...

"Leaving aside the wisdom of becoming involved in the first place"

Thast's a big proviso, isn't it.

In other words, Morrison's decision is the best face-saving he can muster.

Jim Belshaw said...

It certainly is, marcellous. However,I'm not sure on your second point re facing saving unless you mean simply that having made the statement in the first place he was bound to follow through with something. I can't see it as a "humiliating backdown" or a compromise because its really what he said in the first place. I haven't read the speech yet. As I write it's not on line. Of more significance, perhaps, are the reported words on Australia's UN position.

Recognising that Mr Shorten has said that Labor will revoke the position, and an ALP victory seems almost certain, the wording has it stands would appear to provide a base for people to argue that the Australian Government on its own policy should oppose Israeli attempts to absorb East Jerusalem.

The international coverage said that the decision was an attempt to attract or at least shore up the Christian and right vote. Maybe I'm out of touch, but I can't see this. While there is certainly a right vote, its not clear to me that there is such a thing as the "Christian" vote. I can't see that the decision will add a single vote or even prevent drift to smaller right parties. But what would I know?!

2 tanners said...

You'd know that there isn't a pronounced Christian vote, which seems to be more than our current PM realises. You might also realise that hardline Muslim factions in Indonesia are asking for the trade agreement to be delayed/deferred at an estimated cost to Australia of $16 billion per annum. I put little faith in that figure, but what are we getting in exchange?

This is just the best he could do without looking like a complete reneger, or a total goose. The boys and girls at DFAT must have struggled with that one trying to find him an escape path for quite a few sleepless nights. :)

Jim Belshaw said...

The Indonesian Trade Agreement was one of the things i referred to when I mentioned the reaction of some people complaining about other countries attempting to dictate to Australia. How dare they?!

I smiled at your description of the DFAT staff trying to make at sense of it all!

Anonymous said...

I also note the irony that it is the right that should be so pro-Israel. After all, antisemitism was and indeed still is a thread in right wing political thought.

I have had some difficulty with the above snippet, even allowing for the conflation of two separate ideas: the mere existence of Israel, and the free pass given left wing ideologues. But I guess, like most shorthand throwaways, the comments get a pass as being maybe generally true.

Anyway, I'll leave it to that beacon of even-handedness, The Washington Post, to provide some balance:


Jim Belshaw said...

Morning, kvd. Sorry for the slow response. I would agree that the comment was loosely phrased.

I was thinking very specifically of the past and especially an Australian context, the right movements I had known.

Israel is specifically conflated with Jewishness, a conflation reinforced by the Government ethnic and religious decision that Israel was and would remain a Jewish state. It is not anti-Semitic to say this. We are talking about a country and government.

Given the conflation, I find it interesting, I use the word ironic, that some groups who previously traded on antisemitism are no so pro-Israeli. This is not a universal. Antisemitism is on the rise again among what we might call the nationalist right especially in Eastern Europe.

On the left, one of my points was the patterned response among left and right. In my own innocent way, I was trying to stand back from this. And from the politically patterned responses among Australian reporters where a particular short term gladiatorial response dominates.

The initial left response was totally patterned. Only later did conflicts emerge as people looked at the actual wording.