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HomeBusinessJerusalem is the capital of Israel, period - The Australian Jewish News...

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, period – The Australian Jewish NewsNews WAALI

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My nine year old son loves geography. One of his favorite games is “What’s the capital?” I choose a country; he names the capital.

The game frustrates my six-year-old daughter, whose geography is more limited. Your answer to each country is either London or Washington.

After a frustrated walk the other day where London or Washington wasn’t the capital of any country I had named, she asked, “Dad, what’s a capital anyway?” My response was, “It’s a city that has Parliament or a country’s government is located.” It seemed like a simple explanation to me, but when it comes to Israel, the Albanian government has found that the simple explanation is not good enough.

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The awkward decision to change Australia’s recognition of Israel’s capital to Tel Aviv has damaged our relationship with one of our strongest allies. Working hand-in-hand with the Australian police and military, Israel has provided intelligence that has thwarted terrorist attacks on our own soil.

Such a decision might have made more sense if the federal government had signaled its policy, consulted with local people, and perhaps, God forbid, even informed our longtime ally Israel of its intentions. Unfortunately none of this happened.

Jerusalem is the eternal home of the Jewish people, it is Israel’s rightful capital. Jews do not say “Next year in Tel Aviv” at the end of the Seder, but “L’shanah haba’ah b’Yerushalayim” (“Next year in Jerusalem”). It is a sign of longing and security in a world in which the Jewish people have been suffering from persecution for centuries.

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Instead, we saw a knee-jerk reaction to a bureaucratic website change made without consulting our local Jewish community, without notifying the Israeli government, and to add insult to injury, to Simchat Torah of all things.

The three arms of government – the legislative, executive and judiciary – are all located in Jerusalem. The Knesset is Israel’s parliament and has met continuously in Jerusalem since 1949. The President is Israel’s head of state and his residence is Beit HaNassi, also in Jerusalem. Israel’s Supreme Court is located in Givat Ram, which in turn is located in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is at the heart of the Zionist movement, it is so central that Mount Zion is located, guess where? Jerusalem.

Jerusalem has been under the undisputed territorial control of Israel since the 1950s. To say that any other city is the capital of Israel is perfectly legal fiction. It is a legal fiction, going so far as to undermine the integrity of a Western democracy that has enjoyed significant economic, military and diplomatic ties with Australia for over half a century.

Jerusalem is the eternal home of the Jewish people, it is Israel’s rightful capital. Jews do not say “Next year in Tel Aviv” at the end of the Seder, but “L’shanah haba’ah b’Yerushalayim” (“Next year in Jerusalem”). It is a sign of longing and security in a world in which the Jewish people have been suffering from persecution for centuries.

This is not a pathetic geopolitical decision; it goes to the core of Jewish identity and the Jewish diaspora around the world.

As Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid said: “Given the way this decision was taken in a rash response to a false media report, we can only hope that the Australian Government will treat other matters more seriously and professionally. Jerusalem is the eternal and united capital of Israel and nothing will ever change that.”

Secretary of State Penny Wong argues that Australia “will always be an steadfast friend of Israel”. That’s not how friends treat friends.

“Dad, what is a capital anyway?” My answer was, “It’s a city that houses the parliament or government of a country.” It seemed like a simple explanation to me…

This decision was neither followed nor supported by our closest ally, the United States, under Democratic President Joe Biden, but it is a decision welcomed and celebrated by both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

When the US declared recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it was prophesied that relations with the Arab world would irreversibly deteriorate. Instead, in the time since that recognition, we have seen the advent of the Abraham Accords and Israel’s signing of joint normalization declarations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, achieving the strongest ties with the Arab world since its modern inception.

Australians, by and large, recognize the reality that the average Australian on the street would identify Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and they would be perplexed that their government does not recognize this either.

Now that this decision has been made and the damage done, it is important that the Albanian government set about strengthening our ties with Israel. The federal government must demonstrate its determination in the coming months and years to show that we are a true friend of Israel. They must speak out loudly on the world stage against the BDS movement, denounce Israel’s position as the only permanent item on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council, and support Israel’s place in the world as a free liberal democracy.

Jerusalem will continue to be a symbolic melting pot of religions and a historic holy site for Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. However, Jerusalem should not be deprived of its national importance as the eternal capital of Israel. Australia has often been seen as Israel’s best friend on the global stage, and I hope that will continue to be the case no matter who the Australian Prime Minister is.

The truth is that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, period.

Scott Farlow MLC chairs the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel and the NSW Government Whip on the Legislative Council.

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