Once, a statesman defined diplomacy as the following: “Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” It is all about telling things nicely, about handling your enemies in an amiable manner to such an extent that they will extend you a helping hand in case of a crisis. On October 16th, the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison made an unprecedented move in the diplomatic world by announcing that Australia is considering moving its Embassy in Israel from its current location in Tel Aviv, to the holy city of Jerusalem. This announcement is something that can hinder the peace process of stabilising the tensed relationship between Palestine and Israel.
For a long time, Australia has been known as a country which stood for defending the long-cherished dream of peace between Israel and Palestine. However, the decision of the Australian premier to relocate their Embassy to Jerusalem will eliminate any progress that has been achieved in creating harmony between the states of Israel and Palestine. Although, this decision has been in the footsteps of Donald Trump; a few months ago, the United States of America first announced its plans to shift the embassy from Tel Aviv, Israel’s capital city, to Jerusalem. Even though Australia just announced its plan, it has already created a series of diplomatic and political backlash from the international community. In the coming days, we could witness yet another diplomatic crisis in the Middle East region which can deter its peace process.
The genesis of this political strife took place in 1967 during the Holy War, when Israeli forces occupied the city of Jerusalem, took over administrative and political control, thereby marking it as Israel’s territory. This did not sit well with Palestine, who considered it to be the capital of the independent State of Palestine. However, with the controversial decisions of Donald Trump and Scott Morrison, not only has this Palestinian dream come under threat, but the efforts of the international community to improve relations between these two nations also lie in danger of being rendered useless by a potential retaliation of the Palestinian forces. As this unsound diplomatic move is rather uncharacteristic of Australia, opinions of political analysts are split over the motive behind the Prime Minister’s untimely announcement.
One potential reason is the by-election in Australia in the coming months. The Sydney seat of Wentworth will be fair game in these elections, and as the ruling coalition has a narrow majority in the House of Representatives because of this seat, it cannot afford to lose it. Incidentally, Wentworth is also a constituency with a significant Jewish population. Some political analysts believe that if a decision in favour of shifting the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is declared, then the party can gain the favour and votes of the Jewish population which constitutes 13% of the votes, which in turn can lead to their victory. Another potential reason that has been cited for this shift in the policy of Australia is the influence of Donald Trump. Under his regime, nations are being pressurised to adopt extreme pro or anti- Israel and Palestine strategies, which is against the long tradition of balancing power and favour between Palestine and Israel.
Since the declaration of Oslo accords some two decades back, nothing much has been achieved in terms of creating a long term stable peace situation for both Palestine and Israel– what is there now is not much different than it was 20 years before. Though the armed struggle between both nations has declined, there is an occasional showering of bullets over across the border, often killing innocent civilians. With this latest development, the Israel-Palestine issue will become more complicated than it ever was before. While the shift in the Australian foreign policy may help the country in the short-run gains in for their elections, in the long-run, this will adversely impact the Israel-Palestine Peace process.
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