Full marks to Scomo’s minders for digging him out of his self-inflicted hole
The Prime Minister’s announcement today is a tortuous attempt to salvage himself from a pre-emptive thought bubble prior to the Wentworth bi-election and does not contribute to the peace process as he claims, but rather rewards Israel for bad behaviour.
The best one can say is the announcement is not as catastrophic as many feared. However, the problem with it is that it ignores the reality that Israel has declared Jerusalem to be its eternal and undivided capital. In other words, Australia may somewhat pompously say it is all fine, we are only recognising West Jerusalem, the fact of the matter is that Israel considers Jerusalem to be undivided. If the Prime minister’s words are to have any meaning, he (and Australia) will need to be far more proactive, if necessary, through sanctions and boycotts, to pressure Israel into a genuine commitment to peace and the recognition of Palestinian rights, specifically in East Jerusalem. Supporters of moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem argue it is simply recognising reality. That is the point, it is recognising the reality that Israel would like it to be – the surrender of Palestinian rights that exist under international law.
Earlier this year Israel passed what it called a State Law, with ‘constitutional gravitas’, that Jerusalem is its eternal and undivided capital, that full citizenship can only be granted to Jews, that Arabic is no longer an official language and that building settlements is part of core Jewish identity.
In these circumstances, how is it possible to give Israeli recognition in Jerusalem without at the same time ceding Palestinian rights and Palestinian hopes?
Our government continues to justify its unequivocal and uncritical support for Israel on the basis that it is the only democratic country in the Middle East. This is a hoax. By what definition of democracy do we recognise a country that does not grant full citizenry rights to all its people? This week a motion was put to the Knesset that all its people be treated equally. The motion was defeated.
As Bassem Tamimi put it to me last week, the world is run by capitalist colonisers who masquerade as deliverers of democratic government.
Israel currently exhibits all the characteristics of a 19th century coloniser, taking territory without recompense for its economic and geographic gain at the expense of those who have lived on the land in perpetuity, whose lives have been culturally tied to it, for generations. We Australians, or at least our government, has a very short memory. There was a time when we declared our continent to be terra nullius. We now live with the consequences of this ignorant and greed motivated attitude of mind. Israel was created on the same premise: ‘land without people for people without land’. Whether anyone in the past seriously believed the first part of the equation is doubtful, however the regular routine of moving Israeli checkpoints further and further into Palestinian Territory, bulldozing homes and villages and strangling the life of Palestinian people through the relentless building of settlements is not happening on ‘empty land’.
I could accept the Prime Minister’s announcement today, even rejoice in it, if I believed he will use every measure at his command to pressure Israel into acceding Palestinian inalienable rights in East Jerusalem, that he will censure Israel for its settlement building, and that he will do all in his power to ensure the delivery of a two-state solution on 1967 borders within a workable time-frame.
I have absolutely no confidence that this is his intention, based on the previous record of his party in government and therefore see his announcement today as pure politics: appeasing Israel and its supporters in Australia, assuring them that Australia continues to be Israel’s best friend; while at home trying to appease wise souls in Australia’s security and diplomatic service whose job has been to give him ‘fearless advice’ and without doubt have told him that his original thought was cavalier and reckless.
Finally, I wonder if the Prime Minster understands, as sadly I have come to understand, that the window for a two-state solution has, or almost has, passed; that settlement building with its connecting infrastructure has happened on such a large scale that it is now irreversible. Israel has made it clear that it intends to have a million illegal settlers on Palestinian land in the foreseeable future. In these circumstances commitment to a two-state solution could be a cynical commitment to the status quo, giving Israel more and more time to make its annexation of Palestinian lands and its cooping of Palestinians into Bantustans complete.
Apartheid is the only name one can use to describe this activity. If we are cooperating with Israel on this path then the only option open to us is to insist on equal rights for all, regardless of religion, class or ethnicity.
Mr Morrison and your cabinet, you cannot simply make a statement and think your work is done. Either you genuinely believe in a two-state solution and you will use boycott, sanction, or any other means available to you to pressure Israel to a table where a just solution leading to long term peace, security and harmony on this basis will happen, or you do not. If you do not, then you must require Israel and the PLO to come to an agreement which enables all peoples to live together in the same land in peace and harmony with equal rights, an outcome which would immeasurably strengthen both Palestinians and Israelis and produce an entity which could genuinely be named a 21st century democracy.