Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Editorial: Shifting the Australian Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

In what seems to have been an attempt to win over Jewish voters in the electorate of Wentworth in the recent by-election, Prime Minister Scott Morrison floated the idea that the Australian embassy in Israel could be shifted from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. According to Morrison, there are a number of good reasons for doing so and the old chestnut of it reflecting the so called ‘national interest’ has also been trotted out by the PM.

Suggesting that such and such a decision is in the ‘national interest’ is fairly standard form for bourgeois politicians. Just whose interests constitute the ‘national interest’? Simply put, the ‘national interest’ or interests are particular class interests paraded as universal (national) interests. Using the rhetorical device of ‘the national interest’ is a ploy; what’s really meant by this term are ruling class interests. Moreover, sometimes ‘the national interest’ equates to the interests of particular sections of the ruling class. In the case of the mooted shifting of Australia’s embassy in Israel perhaps the ‘national interest’ aspect can be said to cover the interests of certain apologists for and supporters of the State of Israel and US imperialism.

What is also clear is that Morrison, in his desperation to shore up support for his beleaguered government, has simply ignored the negative consequences that such a move would have for the Palestinian people. In addition, Morrison’s Trump-like impulsiveness has led to a scrabbling to make good with Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Widodo voiced his concerns about the impact that the shifting of the Australian embassy would have on Australian Indonesian relations. Former PM Turnbull has been pressed into making a fence-mending meeting with President Widodo to re-assure him that the mooted shifting of the embassy should not undermine the friendly relations between the two countries. Morrison’s plucking of a foreign policy thought bubble straight from Trump’s playbook is no real surprise. Like most bourgeois parliamentarians he is an unabashed supporter of US imperialism. Perhaps more surprising is the cavalier like approach; the seeming lack of care and/or foresight to understand that such impulsive ad hoc pronouncements would have far-reaching consequences.

Earlier in the year President Trump initiated the shifting of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, sparking demonstrations by Palestinians. The demonstrations ultimately led to the deaths of dozens and the wounding of thousands of Palestinians, at the hands of the Israeli Defence Forces. Palestinian protests were rightly directed at what they see as the unilateral decision by the US to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel, a decision that runs roughshod over the claims that the Palestinian people have for Jerusalem as the capital of their own state. Such flagrant dismissiveness towards the Palestinian people’s aspirations on the part of the Israeli state and the US imperialists only adds to tensions in the region and puts back any chance to a peaceful resolution of the ongoing Israeli Palestinian conflict.

Morrison’s impulsive effort to curry favour with reactionaries in Israel, Trump and other US imperialists by suggesting that the Australian embassy could be shifted from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a craven response to Israeli state bullying and US imperialism. His opportunistic blathering in by-election mode has exacerbated tensions both in our region and in the Middle East. The shifting of the Australian embassy in Israel should not go ahead.

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