The Tony Abbott-led neoconservative government of Australia, renowned for its xenophobic intolerance of boatpeople and its hatred of Islam, has been praised by US neoconservatives for its recently announced change of stance toward Israel’s settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In the neoconservative online magazine and blog, Commentary, neoconservative propagandist Tom Wilson writes:
…it would appear that there has been a radical and bold break with the international consensus: Australia has announced that it will no longer refer to East Jerusalem as “occupied territory.” Tony Abbott’s government has put out an uncompromising statement of intent, informing the world that, “The description of East Jerusalem as ‘occupied’ East Jerusalem is a term freighted with pejorative implications which is neither appropriate nor useful. It should not and will not be the practice of the Australian government to describe areas of negotiation in such judgmental language.” This announcement is made all the more significant on account of the fact that back in January Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop publicly disputed the notion that Israel’s settlements should be considered illegal either.
Wilson goes on to write:
The move by the Australians couldn’t have come at a more sensitive time. Just as Canberra is breaking ranks with the international consensus that opposes the Israeli presence in eastern Jerusalem, that consensus is itself hardening. In recent days both the United States and the European Union have mounted vocal protest against Israeli plans to build new homes in existing Jewish neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem. This is an astounding response that exposes the full extent of the hostility toward the Jewish state that emanates from both the EU and the Obama administration. For while the newly formed Hamas-backed Palestinian government has received endorsement from both the White House and the Europeans, building homes for Jews in the ancient Jewish holy city of Jerusalem has provoked a degree of condemnation out of all proportion with reality.
Referring to the proposed new building works for East Jerusalem, Wilson argues that the areas being considered are areas that would fall under Israeli sovereignty anyway after any agreement that creates a Palestinian state and also that all of Jerusalem is already part of Israel under Israeli law anyway, so Israel should be entitled to build in these areas anyway.
I’m sure that many Palestinians will be more than a little upset over this kind of presumption about the future of East Jerusalem which Palestinians had hoped would become the capital of their state at some time in the future.
Wilson bemoans the fact that the US are criticising the decision of Israel to build further settlements in East Jerusalem. However, as Philip Weiss notes, the US isn’t exactly pushing too hard to force the Israelis to stop settlement building and, after years of the Israelis ignoring US pleas to stop building, it’s now got to the point where they are virtually condoning building by not insisting on putting a halt to it and only making objecting noises for the sake of public opinion. One has to wonder if the Abbott government actually realigned its stance unilaterally or if it had quietly got the nod from the US in the hope that other nations might follow and influence US public opinion through example as the neoconservatives are clearly hoping.