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Jerusalem: always the capital

16 April 2018

2:55 PM

16 April 2018

2:55 PM

On Wednesday, Israel will celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, its national day commemorating the Israeli Declaration of Independence signed in 1948. This year will mark the seventieth anniversary of the declaration and the modern nation’s birth. Israelis and Jewish people will celebrate across the globe with parties, barbecues, fireworks, and the Israeli Defence Force will perform a flyover on the Tel Aviv promenade. The day will also be marked with another significant event, the official opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.

While Donald Trump is far from the standing of King David or Ben-Gurion in the history of the Jewish people and Israel, his actions should be praised for the acknowledgement of reality, in what has been the case for close to 4,000 years. That Jerusalem has been, and always will be, the eternal, undivided capital of the State of Israel.

Whether it’s the close to 1000 mentions of the city in the Torah, or the frieze on the Arch of Titus detailing Roman spoils from the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, the city’s status as the religious epicentre of Judaism is a historical fact, not a matter of debate. At the conclusion of the Six Day War in 1967, Muslims were permitted religious and cultural self-determination in the Holy City along with Christians and Jews, and Israeli citizenship was offered to Arabs living within Jerusalem’s borders, something all still have access to today. The city is the seat of the Israeli Prime Minister, its Parliament the Knesset, its Supreme Court, and its President. Trump made his decision to follow through with his campaign commitment late last year breaking a long-held waver signed by Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama to holt the relocation of the Embassy in Israel and formal recognition of Jerusalem as part of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995.

Predictably, reaction to President Trump’s broadcast included both expressions of jubilation and a torrent of objections. Arabic Middle Eastern nations, divided between themselves for many years, found Trump’s declaration a point of joint agreement and the Palestinians’ two philosophical and geographical separate peoples, the Palestinian Authority, Fatah, and terror group Hamas came together in union to denounce the statement. Arguments between Jewish supporters of concessions in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria for the sake of full peace with the Palestinians and those who assert the unquestioned right of the Jewish people to the undivided capital of Jerusalem flared. Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both condemned the move with the French President calling the decision ‘regrettable’.

The Australian Government also took odds with the decision by the Trump administration, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said after the announcement that Jerusalem ’s status must be determined through ‘negotiations between the Israeli Government and Palestinian people’. Reaffirming that Australia would keep its embassy in Tel Aviv despite calls from the Liberal backbench to follow the US. Victorian Senator James Paterson tabled a petition in Federal Parliament at the time from Christians for Israel, calling for the Australian Government to move its embassy. “In time I hope all countries recognise Israel has the same right as any nation to choose its own capital city within its own borders” he said.

Notwithstanding the objections of other countries, it is established practice for sovereign nations to choose their own capitals. While there has generally been bipartisan support within Australia for the nation as a whole, the lack of recognition of Jerusalem must not be taken lightly. But despite this overwhelming global condemnation and rejection of the right of Israel to name its own capital, the nation remains not just as the ideal liberal democracy in the company of authoritarianism and dictatorships in its own region, but a model to the rest of the world. The nation showing how to build a flourishing, accepting, open and prosperous nation in the hardest of situations.

Since its independence, Israel has sustained and further advanced freedoms to its people and has earned the right to maintain sovereignty over Jerusalem. Israel’s decision, as a free democratic nation, to declare a unified and undivided Jerusalem as its capital, should be respected and recognised by the entire international community. For Australia to signify to the world that it stands for the values it purports to so deeply hold; freedom, democracy, tolerance, fairness, equality of men and women, and mateship it must demonstrate to the world, that it is willing to stand by Israel, like the US, in the symbolic but important step of recognising Jerusalem status as the capital of Israel.

Clark Cooley is president of the University of Tasmania Liberal Students. He Tweets at @ClarkCooley

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