Jeremy Leibler, President
Zionist Federation of Australia
10 December 2018
Note: The following was submitted to the Australian Government after Prime Minister Scott Morrison publicly floated an intention to recognise West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
On 5 December 2018, President of the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) – Jeremy Leibler – met with Secretary Adamson, Rachel Kirk and John Field from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The ZFA is the elected roof body of the Jewish Community representing a diverse group of Jewish organisations throughout Australia on issues relating to Israel and Australia’s relationship with Israel.
The consultation was in relation to the Prime Minister’s announcement that the Government was willing to explore formally recognising West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the Australian embassy in Israel to West Jerusalem.
The ZFA welcomes the opportunity to make a formal written submission to the Australian Government on this important matter.
Although the Jewish community is not monolithic, the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community support both the Australian Government’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv. This is due to the following:
- Moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem does not preclude or in any way prejudice a two state solution or resumption of the peace process. Nor does it preclude the Australian Government recognising East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state in the context of a future peace agreement, should the Palestinians return to the negotiating table in good faith. Moving the embassy does not jeopardise this possibility.
- West Jerusalem is the sovereign territory of the State of Israel. This has never been disputed since the Establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
- The Australian Government already recognises West Jerusalem as sovereign Israeli territory. It is home to the Israeli Supreme Court, Knesset, government agencies, residences of the Prime Minister and President, and is where Australian diplomats present their credentials.
- Anyone who suggests that West Jerusalem is disputed territory does not recognise Israel’s 1948 borders and therefore Israel’s right to exist.
- Presently, more than 100 countries worldwide are involved in territorial disputes, some involving occupations and capitals. Of these countries, Israel is the only country whose chosen capital is not accepted by the overwhelming majority of the international community. Australia should treat Israel as it would any of the more than 100 other countries. This includes officially recognising the capital city Israel has chosen for itself –Jerusalem – and moving its embassy there. Should the Australian Government fail to do either of these actions, it would be applying different standards to Israel alone.
Moving the embassy to West Jerusalem will not compromise Australia’s position as an honest broker in resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Australia will not appear as though it is taking sides.
- While President Trump’s peace plan is yet to be released, it is likely that it will require both Israel and the Palestinians to make difficult compromises. Since the US has formally recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Israeli government appreciates that it would be difficult to resist any proposed compromises, even if they present internal political challenges. Should Australia also recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there, it could also play a credible role in encouraging both sides to make compromises.
- One of the major obstacles to peace is the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognise Israel’s right to exist as Jewish State and its continued denial of a Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Land of Israel.
- The Jewish people have a 3,000-year-old historic connection to Israel; Jerusalem has only ever been the capital of the Jewish state.
- By recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Australian Government can inject a sense of reality to the conflict by forcing the Palestinians to come to terms with this reality. Peace will not be achieved while Palestinians are rewarded for denying historical facts and their false narratives are encouraged.
- By moving the Australian embassy to West Jerusalem and leaving open the possibility to do the same for a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem within the framework of a negotiated peace agreement, Australia is treating both parties equally.
Moving the embassy to West Jerusalem is consistent with Australia’s national interest.
- The Australian government recently demonstrated moral clarity and courage by voting against 6 biased and anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations. These motions were one-sided as they only recognised the Palestinian connection to Jerusalem without acknowledging the 3000 year connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem. Recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s sovereign capital and moving the embassy there is consistent with the foreign policy decision to treat both parties equally.
- The US, Australia’s largest and most important ally, has moved its embassy to Jerusalem as have some other countries. A decision to relocate the Embassy is consistent with the foreign policy position of our strongest ally.
- There have been no material adverse ramifications to the US or the Trump administration due to the embassy move. Although some Arab countries, like Saudi Arabia, threatened adverse actions to the US, these threats proved to be hollow. These countries have a record of fuelling rhetoric about the Israel-Palestinian conflict to mainly control their own internal political unrest and will ultimately act in their own best interests. It is likely that a similar approach can be expected from Malaysia and Indonesia. In fact, it has recently been reported that people were paid $3.50 an hour to attend a rally outside the Australian embassy in Indonesia. This suggests that Indonesia is unlikely to act on its threats, should Australia move its embassy.
- Australia’s foreign policy on Israel should not be dictated by Malaysia or Indonesia, neither of which recognise Israel nor have any diplomatic relations with Israel.
- Israel is an important ally in the Middle East. Israel is the only liberal democracy in the region and Australia and Israel enjoy strong and mutually beneficial economic and defence cooperation.
Australia played a leading role in recognising the State of Israel in 1948. By formally recognising West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy there, Australia can continue this important role and continue to act as an effective middle power in the international, diplomatic arena.
The Australian Jewish Community overwhelmingly supports both the Australian Government’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv. To the extent that there are practical or logistical considerations that could delay full implementation of this proposal, we are of the strong view that any announcement should at a minimum be more than a mere symbolic recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.