Scott Morrison Josh Frydenberg Jerusalem embassy
Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg address the media after the Wentworth byelection (Image: AAP/Chris Pavlich)

Politics is a game of scissors paper rock. Call it numbers screw-up money. Whenever anything bizarre appears, is it numbers, screw-up or money? Screw-up beats numbers (i.e. in-party or electoral support), money beats screw-up, numbers beats money. Round it goes. Whatever your first thought is, it’s the one that beats it that’s likely true.

Take this Israel embassy schemozzle. This began, it seems, as a desperate pitch for the Libs to come down off Bellevue Hill with an increased Jewish vote carved in stone. Numbers. (We wrote the book on Numbers)*. Wentworth was lost, and by the waters of Icebergs, yea we wept. But there was still this damn embassy thing hanging around.

John Howard would have simply picked the crap out from between his teeth and said, the Sunday after, “well, maybe that’s something we need to look at in more detail”. And it would have died. Instead, ScoMo doubled down. Screw-up. Then tried to bury it.

Now Josh Frydenberg is running with it. That’s really confused the press gallery. Katharine Murphy in The Guardian says his push is unfathomable. But Murpharoo — and La Tingle, and others — spend most of their columns these days confessing that they have no idea what is going on, and kinda celebrating it. Makes you wonder what you’re paying that membership for.

The obvious answer — to anyone paying attention outside the narrow confines of an old Australian politics — is rock, money (unless money is scissors. Or paper. That would be more appropriate. But I’ve always felt paper was the worst of the trio. Paper wraps rock. What?). The batty proposal to move embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem came into US politics purely through money, and I presume that’s what’s happening here.

The sole agent for the mainstreaming of the Jerusalem embassy proposal in the US about six years ago, came from Sheldon Adelson, the ultra-Zionist Vegas property-rich octogenarian, who began pumping in huge amounts of money to the Republicans a few years ago. His key demand? That preferred candidates put moving the embassy as one of their key policies. Adelson was responsible for Newt Gingrich’s batty tilt at the nomination in 2012 — virtually his sole donor. Gingrich had the embassy move as one of his five key policies. At that time — another era — it looked bizarre.

Fast forward six years and here we are in Oz, with the same conditions. The leadership of the Australian Zionist lobby has become steadily more Likudnik, and then gone beyond that. This new identity-Zionism — in which even the slightest reciprocal recognition of the Palestinians must be obliterated — is catching on in the Zionist segment of the Western diaspora.

Combine that with the fact that the Liberal Party now needs internal money for its factional wars, has lost part of its control of the McCormick Foundation money supply, is perpetually on the edge of broke, and is about to fight NSW and federal elections that no one in business will want to stump up much for, and suddenly we’re all singing Fiddler On the Roof.

Doubtless, Frydenberg had a deep sudden and sincere conversion to the idea of moving the embassy to the Holy City. The angel Gabriel came to him in a dream and said “Joshie Joshie, move the embassy to Jerusalem!” But let’s face it. In the new politics of billionaire clientelism, it ain’t gonna hurt. Numbers, screw-up, money. Not difficult, unless you’re the press gallery, wandering forever in the wilderness.

*old Jewish joke. Very old.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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