The good old days
By the Hon Michael Danby MP
Those were the good old days. Then Prime Minister Malcolm “Menachem” Turnbull hosted the first ever prime ministerial visit of Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. ‘Menachem’ & Bibi. Turnbull hosted a memorable state lunch for the visiting Israeli at the Convention Centre in Darling Harbour. ‘Menachem’ & Bibi. Parliament was not sitting, and conveniently parliamentary critics of Israel did not have to be invited. Only a couple of isolated demos. Then Prime Minister Turnbull used lots of schmaltzy Yiddish expressions at the subsequent triumphal Jewish Community celebration at Central Synagogue in Sydney to welcome the Israel Leader.
Now switch to October 2018. Deposed PM Turnbull is in Bali representing his replacement PM Scott Morrison at an Oceans Conference. The delicacy of the current and immediate past Prime Ministers’ relationship is exacerbated by Turnbull’s belief that Morrison boosted numbers in the first challenge (Tuesday), thereby guaranteeing a second challenge (Thursday), that is where Morrison came through the middle replacing Turnbull. Some weeks after the leadership changed in Indonesia representing Australia, Malcolm “Menachem” Turnbull is appropriately briefed on sensitive matters, including the recent controversy over whether Australia sites its embassy in Jerusalem. Naughty Menachem, bitter Malcolm, clearly no longer basking in the glow of the adoring crowd at Central Synagogue, publicly repudiates Australia’s policy review on Jerusalem in a press conference.
Dr Gerard Henderson, Executive Director of the Sydney Institute, says, “It was perfectly appropriate for Turnbull to discuss this matter (Jerusalem) with Indonesian President Joko Widodo when he represented Australia at the Oceans Conference in Bali. Where Turnbull erred was in talking to the media about his personal views following the meeting.” Disappointingly Turnbull publicly vented against shifting Australia’s embassy to Israel’s capital in West Jerusalem. Worse from the point of view of his fans in his former Sydney electorate, he revealed Cabinet discussions from when he was PM that came down against shifting our embassy to Jerusalem. Many people will regret that the former Prime Minister Malcolm publicly suggested while in Indonesia, that Bali ought to determine Australia’s position on our embassy in Israel. Let us consider first principles – no country can let another country determine where its embassy is located in a third country.
Now since the Wentworth by-election announcement about Iran and Jerusalem, the received wisdom in Canberra and the dominant left-liberal media ABC/Fairfax/Guardian is that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s policy review on Jerusalem and Iran will not recommend anything after enmeshing those difficult issues in the debacle of the Wentworth by-election. Unfortunately, as politics is the art of the possible, I think they are correct – shifting the embassy has become a partisan issue. Worse again, it has been given too much salience in Australian public policy. However, I also feel that the Prime Minister’s policy review will appear a worthless dud if he doesn’t offer something on both Iran and Jerusalem.
So what could he sensibly do? In February this year Vladimir Putin, of all people, provided a policy shift recognising West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but leaving the shift of the embassy until some progress in negotiations with the Palestinians. Morrison could imitate this Russian diplomatic shift but he implicitly, or even explicitly, will also have to address the issue of East Jerusalem being the future capital of a Palestinian state.
Finally, on Iran, I have been Julie Bishop’s nemesis for years over her abject failed policy towards Iran. Again the Canberra/media consensus is that there will be no change in Australia repudiating the Iranian nuclear deal (JCPOA). Again what might the Government do in order not to look total fools for raising the Issue of the Iranian nuclear deal four days before the by-election vote in Wentworth? They won’t repudiate JCPOA even though it is a fundamentally flawed agreement and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has, with the best intentions, been barred from Iranian military sites. Unlike Australia however, in the intervening three years since this Iran nuclear deal has been signed the UK, Germany and France have condemned Iran’s ballistic missile firings. JCPOA does not mandate – it simply calls on the Ayatollahs to refrain from shooting intermediate or intercontinental ballistic missiles. Six times since JCPOA was signed Iran had fired just such missiles which have the capacity to carry nukes. Six times Macron, Merkel and May have condemned Iran for doing this. Australia remained mute, silent. At least we could change that. Australia could announce as part of its review of Iran that we have re-joined the civilised world in condemning Iranian ballistic missile firings that threaten weapons of nuclear proliferation.
There we are Prime Minister – two ‘tachlis’ suggestions for you.
I’m happy to explain to you the meaning of ‘tachlis’, even if our old friend Menachem won’t. We’ve come a long way since those heady days with ‘Menachem’ & Bibi at the Central Shule as far as Israel & the legitimate place of its capital in Jerusalem key are not good.