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Wong Can Deride Morrison’s ‘Diplomatic Insensitivity’ All She Wants But It Is Labor Who Has Endangered Our Vital Relationship With Israel

Written by
22 October 2022
Originally appeared in Sky News Australia

Wong has ironically tried to paint the former PM as diplomatically insensitive over West Jerusalem, despite the fact it is her government’s new policy on the issue that has plunged Israeli/ Australian relations to a worrying low.

Jerusalem has been described as the most hotly-contested piece of real estate on earth.

Whoever said that wasn’t kidding.

It’s in the news feed again this week following Labor Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s announcement that Australia no longer recognises “West Jerusalem” as the capital of Israel.

That’s a reversal of Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement in 2018.

If you’re wondering what the fuss is about, you’ve clicked the right link.

This column offers answers not commonly found.

Starting with basics, Jewish people lived in ancient Israel for over a thousand years.

Jerusalem became the centre of Jewish life.

King Solomon built the First Temple between 970 and 930 BC.

Known as Beit Ha-Miqdash, inside it was the Ark of the Covenant carrying two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments.

This original Beit Ha-Miqdash was demolished by the invading Babylonians in 586 BC.

A Second Temple was built under Persian rule in 516 BC.

Penny Wong's move to no longer recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is confusing, provocative and damaging to Australia's relationship with the country, writes Dr. Sherry Sufi. Picture: Getty Images
Penny Wong’s move to no longer recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is confusing, provocative and damaging to Australia’s relationship with the country, writes Dr. Sherry Sufi. Picture: Getty Images

This rebuilt Beit Ha-Miqdash was demolished by Roman Emperor Vespasian in 70 AD.

The Jewish population was then expelled by Roman Emperor Hadrian in 135 AD.

The next two millennia would see Jewish communities survive in foreign lands across Europe, North Africa and the wider Middle East. 

Zionism emerged in the late 1800s as a nationalist movement seeking to establish a Jewish state in the ancestral land.

The challenge was that the land was already inhabited by a non-Jewish population that spoke Levantine Arabic.

After Jewish expulsion, the demography had gone through changes.

Due to the spread of Christianity, there came to be a Christian majority.

Between 326 and 335 AD, Byzantine Emperor Constantine had the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built over the hilltop on which Jesus Christ, according to local tradition, was crucified three centuries earlier. 

The Umayyads conquered Jerusalem in 637 AD.

Jews were allowed back in for the first time since expulsion. 

Prophet Muhammad, according to Muslim tradition, ascended to heaven at the site where the Beit Ha-Miqdash twice stood.

To mark this ascent, Umayyad ruler Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan had the Dome of the Rock built in 691 AD at the site — known as the Al-Aqsa compound or Temple Mount.

Over time, the demography shifted to a Muslim majority — alongside Christian and Jewish minorities. 

The Ottoman Empire ruled from 1299 until World War I ending in 1918.

The Jewish Virtual Library records the total population at the time was 660,000 with 600,000 non-Jews and 60,000 Jews.

The land fell under British colonial rule.

In 1917, Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour declared his support for Zionist aspirations.

As Jews made up 8 per cent of the population, this declaration angered non-Jewish inhabitants resenting minority rule.

By that stage, the non-Jewish population had also begun having its own nationalist awakening led by Palestinian Christian activists.

They had established anti-Zionist newspapers like Al-Karmil in 1908 and Falastin in 1911 to campaign against mass Jewish arrivals.

Conflict was inevitable for reasons astutely observed by prominent Zionist pioneer Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

In his 1923 essay The Iron Wall, he writes: “Every native population in the world resists colonists as long as it has the slightest hope of being able to rid itself of the danger of being colonised.”

Jabotinsky continues: “That is what the Arabs in Palestine are doing, and what they will persist in doing so long as there remains a solitary spark of hope that they will be able to prevent the transformation of Palestine into the land of Israel”.

Coming decades saw Zionists doing everything possible to encourage Jewish arrivals into the land. 

Palestinian Arabs — Christians and Muslims combined — did everything possible to stop Jewish arrivals.

Muslim Palestinians also feared that Zionists planned to demolish Al-Aqsa with support from Christians in the West, some of whom believed Jews rebuilding the Third Temple would hasten the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Between 1919 and 1946, every British or American-led attempt to solve the conflict failed.

For instance, King-Crane Commission (1919), Shaw Report (1929), Hope-Simpson Commission (1930), Passfield White Paper (1930), Peel Commission (1937), Woodhead Commission (1938), White Paper (1939), Alexandria Protocol (1944), Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry (1946) and Morrison-Grady Plan (1946).

At last in 1947, the United Nations got involved.

It proposed Resolution 181 to create two states — a Jewish Israel based on 56 per cent of the territory and an Arab Palestine on 44 per cent. 

By now, the population was 1.9 million, with 1.3 million non-Jews (68 per cent) and 630,000 Jews (32 per cent). 

Due to its concurrent significance for Jews (Western Wall, Temple Mount), Christians (Holy Sepulchre) and Muslims (Al-Aqsa, Temple Mount), the UN proposed that Jerusalem be made an international zone.

War broke out. Neighbouring Arab armies lost.

Israel’s victory enabled it to declare independence in 1948 on territory larger than the UN had allocated for a Jewish state.

The war left 700,000 Palestinians displaced.

Territories allocated for a Palestinian state were occupied by Jordan (West Bank) and Egypt (Gaza Strip).

West Jerusalem fell inside Israel.

East Jerusalem — with the Old City — fell inside Jordan.

West Jerusalem (in blue) is an integral part of Israel, writes Dr. Sherry Sufi. Picture: Shaul Arieli
West Jerusalem (in blue) is an integral part of Israel, writes Dr. Sherry Sufi. Picture: Shaul Arieli

In 1967, Israel won a war that lasted six days.

East Jerusalem was part of Israel’s territorial gains.

These included the Sinai Peninsula (returned to Egypt after peace treaty in 1979), the Golan Heights annexed in 1981), the Gaza Strip (military withdrawal in 2005) and the West Bank (not yet annexed, settlement underway).

To diffuse Muslim anxieties, Israel let Jordan continue to control access to the Temple Mount.

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation seeks statehood on 1967 borders with a capital in East Jerusalem. 

This might be a ‘final status’ determination but that ship has long sailed.

East Jerusalem (green on the map) was annexed by Israel on 30th July 1980.

Israel seeks recognition for an undivided Jerusalem as its capital.

Now that we know the complexities, we can see how West Jerusalem (blue on the map) has been a part of Israel since 1948.

Despite Wong making Morrison seem diplomatically insensitive, look at his actual words on 15th December 2018.

Morrison said: “West Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and we look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of and after, final status determinations.”

Like Wong, Morrison also acknowledged “final status” determinations.

US President Trump in 2017 recognised an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

By contrast, Morrison said: “…recognising our commitment to a two-state solution, the Australian government has also resolved to acknowledge the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem.”

Ironically, Morrison’s position was closer to Wong’s than Trump.

Minister Wong’s announcement is confusing and provocative.

Repairing Australia’s relationship with Israel is pivotal to solving this conflict.

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Sherry Sufi

Sherry Sufi was a Senior Fellow of The Centre for the Australian Way of Life at the Institute of Public Affairs

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