Australia's Jerusalem embassy move would undermine the two-state solution

Australia's Jerusalem embassy move would undermine the two-state solution
Comment: If Australia truly wants to assist the peace process, it must take a firm stand against Israel's human rights violations, writes Ali Kazak.
6 min read
12 Dec, 2018
The US and Guatemala announced they would move their embassies to Jerusalem this year [Getty]
In their arguments for recognising Jerusalem as "Israel's capital" and moving the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv, the Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, his deputy Josh Frydenberg and the minister of defence, Christopher Pyne have been repeating Israel's propaganda, and hiding the truth about occupied Palestine from the Australian public.

The trio are are known for their bias and uncritical, staunch support for Israel, despite its occupation of Palestinian lands, racial discrimination and gross human rights violations.

With this worrying state of affairs and the absence of balance in the Cabinet, how can we be sure that a decision based purely on Australia's national interest, and in support of peace with justice in Palestine is served, rather than Netanyahu's extremist government's colonial ambitions?

The three politicians have repeated Israel's claim that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, even though the international community regards Jerusalem as an occupied city.

This had been Australia's position, too, dating back to the establishment of Israel in Palestine in 1948, and its occupation of West Jerusalem in violation of the UN Partition of Palestine (resolution 181) which declared Jerusalem a corpus separatum under a special international regime, administered by the Trusteeship Council on behalf of the United Nations.

Israel's declaration of Jerusalem as its capital has been condemned by the United Nations in dozens of resolutions which assert the illegality of the City's occupation and annexation.

The government cannot claim to support a two-state solution and recognise one state and not the other

They have also demanded Israel's withdrawal, affirmed the nullity of this declaration and called for the recession of all measures: legislative, administrative, demographic, and proprietary, which were taken to change the status of the City. This fact was also emphasised by the International Court of Justice in the ruling it issued in July 2004.

Israel's internationally recognised capital is Tel Aviv, and that is where it was established on 14 May 1948, and where the Australian and all other embassies are, with the recent exceptions of the USA and Guatemala.

Following Israel's occupation of West Jerusalem, which took over about 85 percent of the city, Israel ethnically-cleansed its resident Palestinians and confiscated their homes and properties. Since Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem 51 years ago, and its unilateral annexation in contravention of international law, Israel's oppressive and discriminatory laws and policies have changed the geographic and demographic reality of Jerusalem.

To do so, it has moved boundaries, confiscated Palestinian land and properties for the use of Jews only, and has pressured Palestinians - both Muslim and Christian - to leave, while encouraging Jews to move in.

Contrary to Israel's claim of an "undivided Jerusalem", any visitor to the city will discover the stark division between West and East Jerusalem. Palestinians are living under military rule in East Jerusalem. They are subject to racial discrimination in every walk of life.

Following his meetings with the Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and the Indonesian president Joko Widodo during the ASEAN Conference in Singapore, Scott Morrison said he told Widodo "Australia is considering that issue, in the context of it furthering a two state solution."

"Our support for a two-state solution is unquestioned and we're absolutely committed to that. And Australia has a long history of respecting Security Council resolutions, and I restated that that remains our position."

If this is the case, then he should know there are 24 major UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel's occupation and violations in Jerusalem and calling on states not to establish diplomatic missions in Jerusalem, and those who did so to withdraw such missions from the Holy City.

For example, UN Security Council Resolution No. 478 of 20 August 1980 condemns Israel's attempted annexation of East Jerusalem, its non-compliance with UNSC resolutions, and condemned Israel's 1980 Jerusalem Law which declared Jerusalem to be Israel's "complete and united" capital, as a violation of international law.

The resolution states the Council will not recognise this law, and calls on member-states to accept the decision of the Council. It also calls upon member states to withdraw their diplomatic missions from the city.

So, will Mr Morrison respect Security Council resolutions, as he promised Mr Widodo?

Australians from all walks of life, current and former politicians, ambassadors, senior bureaucrats, academics, writers, journalists and security experts have warned against a move, concurring it is against Australian national interest.

Morrison should know there are 24 major UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel's occupation and violations in Jerusalem

Mr Morrison said the government is motivated by wanting to see progress towards a two-state solution because "it hasn't been going that well. Not a lot of progress has been made." But he failed to mention the reason it is not going well; Israel's violations and the building of Jewish colonies in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem.

Australia has never shouldered its responsibility and international obligations in this issue, and unlike the EU it failed to even condemn Israel's violations, let alone hold it accountable.

To the contrary, Australia encourages and rewards Israel. Only last week Australia voted along with only five other countries against a UN resolution calling for an end to Israel's occupation of Palestine.

If Australia truly wants to assist the peace process and a two-state solution that involves the establishment of a Palestinian state, it must take a firm stand against the occupying power which is obstructing this process.

Read more: Beef over Bibles: What's blocking Brazil's Jerusalem embassy move?

Surely Mr Morrison and his government know that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital without recognition of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital will only encourage and reward Israel's occupation, obstruct the establishment of a Palestinian state?

The government cannot claim to support a two-state solution and recognise one state and not the other, especially when Israel is swallowing what remained of the other state by planting Jewish colonies.

If Mr Morrison and his government are sincere in what they say, they need to recognise the state of Palestine and have Australian embassies in East and West Jerusalem. By doing so, Australia would be playing a constructive role and regaining respect.

The State of Palestine is recognised by 138 countries including Sweden, Iceland and the Vatican, as well as Australia's neighbours, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Thailand and the Philippines.

It is also a full member of the League of Arab States, the Movement of Non‑Aligned Countries, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Group of Asia‑Pacific States and the Group of 77.

It is time for Australia - which played a major role in the unjust Partition of Palestine, the creation of Israel and the subsequent Palestinian catastrophe - to correct its record, and do the right thing.

Ali Kazak is a former Palestinian ambassador. He is an expert in Australian-Arab relations and affairs, and author of "Australia and the Arabs" (in Arabic).

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.