As the dust storm around Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Jerusalem comments begins to abate, we ought to focus less on whether it was a short-sighted and cynical gambit to win Wentworth and more on the claims that he, candidate Dave Sharma and other proponents of the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital have been making.
The rationality of such a unilateral and controversial move, they maintain, lies in trying “something different” to kick-start the stalled peace negotiations that at the same time won’t preclude a future Palestinian capital in the city, since any diplomatic presence would be located in the city’s uncontested west.
Recent articles by Peter Wertheim and Ran Porat similarly zoom in on and press this point, the latter noticeably failing to comment on whether it is preferable to act in lockstep with the White House or to pursue foreign policy that is in our own national interests.
There is a sensible objection that can and should be made to this narrative. While it is true that West Jerusalem is expected to be the official capital of Israel in any final settlement, one party does in fact reject this demarcation – the State of Israel. It’s an obvious reality that the Israel lobby here seems determined to overlook. Since its illegal annexation of the city’s east in 1980, Israel has made constant and shameless reference to its “eternal and undivided capital”.
Just recently, Israel’s Knesset passed the highly contentious Nation-State Law, clause 3 of which states: “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel”. In addition to being classed as a “basic law” – which gives it constitutional weight – it is unambiguous in its declaration that Israeli sovereignty should not be restricted to just West Jerusalem.