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PM is trading Palestine for Wentworth



On 14 May 2018, many in the Israeli Knesset (parliament) celebrated USA's Israel embassy move from Tel Aviv (where embassies are located) to Jerusalem. The move is fraught with political and religious agendas. For evangelical Christians like Vice President Mike Pence, it is the first step in bringing forth the 'Rapture', a key to the second coming of Christ.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time. (Stefan Postles/Getty Images)For many Jews, the move serves as recognition of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. It has great political ramifications for the peace process. During the 1967 War, Israel annexed East Jerusalem, resulting in looting, killing and displacement of Palestinians. East Jerusalem has long been recognised by the international community as the capital for a Palestinian state.

Julie Bishop, Australia's Foreign Minister, said in response that Australia will not follow suit: 'the Australian government will not be moving our embassy to Jerusalem'. Since Bishop's statement in June 2018 there has been much water under the proverbial bridge. Leadership changes in the Liberal Party meant that then Prime Minster Turnbull was removed, replaced by Scott Morrison.

Like Pence, Morrison is an evangelical Christian and staunchly on the political right. His statement that he's considering recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital comes at an opportune time.

With Turnbull resigning from Parliament, his seat in eastern Sydney's Wentworth is up for re-election. This presents a problem for the Liberal government. Turnbull was a popular politician. Opinion polls show the Liberal vote dropped after his ousting by Morrison.

I believe Morrison's embassy move is a political stunt targeted at Wentworth's Jewish population. While the overall Australian Jewish population is about 0.4 per cent (91,022 people identified as Jewish in the 2016 Census), they constitute about 12.5 per cent of the Wentworth electorate, with Christianity the largest religious group overall (43.8 per cent). It is highly likely the LNP is counting on the embassy stunt to result in more votes in the Wentworth by-election.

While the Prime Minister's statement is a blatant appeal to the 'Jewish vote' in order to salvage the Wentworth seat, it has broader political ramifications.


"Morrison's indication he's considering moving the Australian embassy will embolden Netanyahu's oppressive hold over Palestinians living in already precarious conditions."


Yet again, the issue of Palestine and Palestinians themselves are used as a political football in domestic politics. The situation in Israel and Palestine is increasingly volatile. In 2014, thousands were killed in Israel's bloody attack of Gaza, a place that is 'in the throes of a manmade humanitarian disaster' according to Israeli human rights organisation B'tselem.

The US embassy's move to Jerusalem fanned flames in this already strained political climate. Morrison's declaration of his intentions to move the Australian embassy to Jerusalem will no doubt be received warmly by Netanyahu's Likkud government and its openly racist ministers.

Following in Trump's footsteps, the Prime Minister's statement can mean a disaster for Australia's relationship with Muslim and other Middle-Eastern countries. Not only this; it throws Australia's Palestinian population under the bus.

Morrison has stated that 'Australia's position on this issue has, to date, assumed that it is not possible to consider the question of the recognition of Israel's capital in Jerusalem and that be consistent with pursuing a two-state solution,' arguing that 'You can achieve both and indeed by pursuing both you are actually aiding the cause for a two-state solution.' This is a bizzarrely simplistic argument.

To recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel erases any future potential for Palestinian sovereignty, effectively adding another nail to the 'two-state solution' coffin. At a time when Palestinians are being forcably removed from their homes in East Jerusalem to make room for more settlements, and army bulldozers, police, and military are injuring protestors and residents, Morrison's indication he's considering moving the Australian embassy will no doubt embolden Netanyahu's oppressive hold over Palestinians living in already precarious conditions.

Palestinian lives and Palestinian sovereignty are not a political football to throw around when your polling is down. If Morrison wants to get involved in Israeli politics, he can commit to engaging Israel in serious conversations around its mistreatment and abuse of Palestinians. For now, he should keep the embassy where it is, and suffer the consequences of his leadership bid.



Na'ama CarlinNa'ama Carlin holds a PhD in Sociology. A dual Israeli-Australian citizen, she writes about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ethics, identity, and violence. Follow her @derridalicious

Topic tags: Na'ama Carlin, Israel, Palestine, Jerusalem, Donald Trump, Scott Morrison



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Existing comments

A couple of lines from Robert Bolt's 'A Man For All Seasons', both attributed to Sir Thomas More: "When statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their own public duties they lead their country by a short route to chaos." And this, a paraphrase: "It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world ... but for Wentworth?" I fear we have been here before, sadly all too often.

Richard Jupp | 17 October 2018  

i too am disturbed by the wish to move the embassy to Jerusalem. I think it has a lot to do also with the element of conservative Christianity as i have friends who make this a flash point and think it is so right because of their belief.

Noel Jeffs | 17 October 2018  

Thanks Na'ama for an excellent article. I agree with you that, "To recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel erases any future potential for Palestinian sovereignty, effectively adding another nail to the 'two-state solution' coffin." By playing politics in the hope of winning the by-election next Saturday, Morrison is further damaging Australia's international reputation, which is already badly damaged by our Federal Government's cruel treatment of refugees and inaction on climate change. Wentworth voters can show their disapproval of the Morrison Govenment by putting the Coalition well down the list on their ballot paper next Saturday, and I expect that many will do just that.

Grant Allen | 17 October 2018  

Love the 'quotes' from Robert Bolt, Richard. 'But for Wentworth? For Wentworth, Scot?' Morrison suggests that we are a sovereign nation and will make up our own minds;especially as the American and Israel lobbies tell us to. This is a kind of reverse racism, offering a prize to one race over another and pretending to be fair the while. It also tarnishes David Sharma's position if his election were to be secured by the taint of a desperate PM with more than a dollop of slavishness to an electoral minority and an unprincipled 'ally' across the Pacific. And to invoke superstitious notions of a New Jerusalem is fundamentally flawed even if it appeals to fundamentalists.

Michael D. Breen | 17 October 2018  

Pathetic! Could this inanity possibly be some fundamentalist belief in Jerusalem as the 'City of God" Could it simply be grovelling to the worst president the USA has ever trumped up? Or is a pathetic attempt to win a by-election? Doesn't really matter which it is when its real import is that it represents yet another nail in the coffin of the Liberal/ National coalition in government. Embarrassing for this country, a bit like Abbott's "shirt-fronting" Putin and Howard's "child overboard"- and Morrison seemed to be doing reasonably well! Perhaps the PM is already floating around in the ecstasy of the chosen saved and set to be safe in the approaching battle of Armageddon to be fought by God and his chosen Jewish army against all the unfavoured infidels. The mind boggles!

john frawley | 17 October 2018  

There is another side to the biased position that Na'aama takes. Israel's Parliament and Government are in West Jerusalem (the rightful and logical place for foreign embassies) which was recognised by the United Nations in 1948 as territory for the new State of Israel, which Arab nations then and since have tried to extinguish, unsuccessfully thankfully. If the PLO Palestinians and the Arab nations discard their policy of rejectionism towards Israeli-USA peace and settlement offers then a new Palestinian State might well have its capital in East Jerusalem, excluding the old walled Holy City which is sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews. All could have access to it, as Israel now allows and which Arab Jordan did not in 1948-1967, under a UN supervisory agency.

Gerard Tonks | 17 October 2018  

Precisely John Frawley, it’s not just Morrison or Abbott or Howard, it’s the whole bunch of hard right conservatives in the coalition.

Ginger Meggs | 17 October 2018  

Israel has shown no move towards a two-state solution even though it signed the Oslo Accords of 1993. Every recent move made by its Knesset is aimed at a greater Israel, with no possibility of a viable Palestinian State. Area C, 60% of the West Bank, remains exclusively under Israeli control, with just 1% designated for Palestinian use, and Palestinians unable to build in their own villages. The recently passed Israel Nation State of the Jewish People Bill deepens its image as an apartheid regime. The Bill received worldwide criticism, including from the Jewish diaspora, and further alienates Palestinians, Druze and Bedouin communities. Every new settlement in the West Bank is a further alienation of rights for Palestinians, and further precludes a two-state solution as a remedy to the problems in Israel-Palestine. International support given to one party only in this dispute is unjust, and unworthy of Australia as a democratic state.

Denis Loft, Bethlehem | 18 October 2018  

I suspect this move is just temporary political manoeuvring, mooted to gain a few vital votes for the LNP in Wentworth and once the election has taken place, win or lose, the idea will be buried again. An example of one of the unsavoury facets of politics, alas.

Martin Killips | 19 October 2018  

Dr Na'ma Carlin, thank you for this well expressed article about PM Scott Morrison's intention to move Australia's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Sadly, I agree with you that it is a stunt that has been taken in the hope that the "Liberal" Party retains the seat of Wentworth. Why would a PM who claims to care about fairness betray the human rights of the Palestinian state for such short term political gain? While it is a stunt, it is a very irresponsible one. It has become apparent for many years that the Zionist leaders of Israel - backed by overseas Jewish and Christian Zionists - are not at all interested in the two state solution in the Middle East. They will not agree to a border because they want to extend the area that they hold at the expense of Palestinian land. Then when peaceful, unarmed Palestinian protestors return to their occupied land, they face live Israeli ammunition. When people, including "righteous" Jews like Dr Carlin, speak out against such murderous polities, they are described as being anti Semitic or self-hating Jews respectively. However, this accusation can be very misleading. Ashkenazi Jews that account for 92% of the world's Jewry came out of Medieval Germany and spread to Eastern Europe are not considered as Semitic people based on DNA studies of the various Jewish groupings. And, it must be remembered that Arabs are also Semites, thus people who racially discriminate against Palestinians and other Arabs are being anti-Semitic. it is not just a term that refers to Jewish people. People who criticise the policies of the Israeli Governments are criticising the racist and apartheid Zionist crimes against the Palestinians. Adelaide lawyer, Paul Heywood-Smith has written an excellent book "The Case for Palestine" which gives an excellent overview of the ME issue including the issue of antisemitism. http://www.wakefieldpress.com.au/product.php?productid=1196

Andrew (Andy) Alcock | 20 October 2018  

The Australian embassy has no place in Jerusalem. Jerusalem should be an international city governed by all the different religions residing there. If the Embassy goes to Jerusalem the Palestinians are being told that the Australians recognise the city as the capital of Israel. Jerusalem also belongs to the Palestinian state and their people are being denied any recognition.

Mira Zeimer | 21 October 2018  

Wentworth has been won and lost and the idea of moving the Australian Embassy can be put back where it belongs in the bin of slick electoral bribes and "well it seemed like a good idea at the time". I imagine the Jewish voters of Wentworth, if it is fair to combine them under that tag, would have raised a collective eyebrow at the desperate brazenness of this bribe for their votes. Let’s hope the idea is quietly forgotten, although you never know with this marketing focused PM who apparently, unlike his predecessor, is always “on message”.

Brett | 24 October 2018  

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