Australian Jews ‘deeply disappointed’ as gov’t rescinds Jerusalem recognition

Jewish groups say Canberra’s move will encourage Palestinian intransigence.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israelis and Australian Jews voiced anger and disappointment over Canberra’s decision to rescind the former government’s recognition of western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Yair Lapid had slammed Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s announcement, in which she called the four-year-old policy an “approach that undermines a two-state solution.” The Australian ambassador was also called in for a dressing down by Foreign Ministry bureau chief Aliza Bin-Noun.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai toned down the criticism somewhat in an interview on Israeli radio. While the announcement was “disappointing, especially coming from one of Israel’s best friends in the world,” he told Kan Reshet Bet, and Israel has every right to choose its own capital, “which is all of Jerusalem, not just its western part,” this is not a reason to take drastic diplomatic steps.

“We have no interest in undermining relations with Australia,” he said. “One doesn’t disrupt relations because of one announcement or another, but it certainly disappoints us” – as well as the “excellent, Zionistic Jewish community in Australia.”

In its turn, the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), called the about-face “deeply disappointing” and “a pointless own goal” that “risks denting Australia’s credibility with some of our closest allies.”

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Executive Director Colin Rubenstein also pointed out that “West Jerusalem will always be part of Israel and no serious peace proposal has ever suggested Israel should give it up. So the decision to withdraw recognition of Israel’s right to choose its own capital on its own sovereign territory is frankly bizarre.”

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry also expressed its “extreme disappointment,” saying that the decision is “a gratuitous insult to a key economic and strategic ally, with no countervailing benefit for Australians. This is no way to treat an ally whose intelligence-sharing with Australia has prevented at least one terrorist attack against Australians that we know of.”

Both groups directly contradicted Wong and echoed Israel’s foreign ministry’s statement on the subject, saying they believed it would only encourage a hardening of the Palestinian Authority’s maximalist positions and push peace further away.

Australia’s lawmakers from the opposition Liberal party sharply criticized the policy change, with shadow foreign minister Simon Birmingham telling Sky News Australia the move was “shambolic” and called on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to apologize.

Others, such as Liberal MP Julian Leeser voiced their displeasure on Twitter.

“West Jerusalem has been part of the State of Israel since it’s establishment in 1948. The Knesset is there. The President lives there. the Supreme Court is there. It looks like any other capital city to me. The question is why can’t Labor see that too,” Leeser tweeted.

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Opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu wasted no time blaming Lapid’s government ahead of Israel’s Nov. 1 elections.

“It’s no surprise that Australia canceled its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” Netanyahu said, “when [Defense Minister Benny] Gantz says that ‘There’s room for a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem,’ and [Interim Prime Minister Yair] Lapid says that he ‘wants to establish a Palestinian state.’”

Arab and Muslim foes of Israel welcomed the decision, including the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror organizations.

PIJ called it “a courageous step and a victory for the Palestinian cause and narrative,” while Hamas deemed it “a step in the right direction.”

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation and neighbor to Australia also praised Canberra’s reversal.

The previous Conservative government had announced its recognition of West Jerusalem a few months after then-U.S. president Donald Trump moved the American embassy to Israel’s capital in May 2018. The United Nations General Assembly subsequently rejected Washington’s decision in a nonbinding vote which Australia was one of 35 countries to abstain on.