FOREIGN Minister Julie Bishop’s announcement that she will look into the prospects of having an Australian diplomatic presence in Jerusalem has been hailed as significant.
Bishop, who is responsible for Australia’s embassies and missions around the world, was addressing a group of communal leaders last Friday when she was asked by Zionism Victoria immediate past president Sam Tatarka if Australia would open a consulate or high commission in West Jerusalem – a part of the city which is expected to remain as part of Israel in any future peace deal.
The Foreign Minister responded that she has been “creative” when it comes to opening new diplomatic missions around the world considering budgetary constraints.
“In Morocco we bunked in with the British. We have our door and our flag here (at the front) and the British flag and door at the back and we share the back-of-house costs, because all countries need to be represented everywhere.
“We bunk in with the Canadians every now and again, the Brits are trying to pile on top of us in Bali and we’ve got the Brits in with us in Wellington.”
She said that the biggest stumbling blocks to Australia moving the embassy to Jerusalem are financial and security.
But, Bishop said, if she could overcome the cost and security issues to open some sort of diplomatic presence, she would consider it.
“I hate to put it in that context, but let me have a look at what is happening in West Jerusalem. If there is a British High Commission there or a consulate of some description we can look at that.”
Britain, United States, France, Greece and Italy all currently have diplomatic missions in Jerusalem, although their embassies, like Australia’s, are located in Tel Aviv.
Tatarka said if Bishop found somewhere to house an Australian presence in Jerusalem, it would make a statement. “The location, in terms of sharing with another country, is not important,” he told The AJN.
“If Australia were to establish a formal diplomatic presence in Jerusalem it would be perceived internationally as a significant step.”
Bishop’s comments were also welcomed by Senator James Paterson, who called for Australia to move its embassy to Jerusalem when he made his maiden speech to Parliament last year. “Any move towards establishing an Australian diplomatic presence in Jerusalem would be a welcome step,” Paterson told The AJN.
“It is hard to imagine any objection to an office representing the Australian government in West Jerusalem, which every reasonable commentator agrees would inevitably remain part of Israel under any two-state solution.”
Also welcoming Bishop’s statement was Zionist Federation of Australia president Danny Lamm. However he said Australia should go further and show the world that it stands for principles by transferring its embassy to Jerusalem.
“Israel is the only country whose capital city is ignored by the world,” Lamm said.
“It’s an indefensible position for the free world to kowtow to the Arab world as it has for 69 years.”