Australia has recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but an embassy shift from Tel Aviv will not occur until a peace settlement is achieved, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
On Saturday, Canberra became one of just a few governments around the world to follow US President Donald Trump’s lead and recognize the city as Israel’s capital. Morrison also committed to recognizing a future state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.
A politically craven decision by a failing prime minister to appease Netanyahu’s far right Israeli govt & far right lobby in Oz. A reminder: this is the same Netanyahu who presided over forging Oz passports for use in Mossad’s 2009 assassination in Dubai. https://t.co/0vBGam2dKD
— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) December 15, 2018
Morrison said in a speech on Saturday in Sydney:
“Australia now recognizes West Jerusalem – being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government – is the capital of Israel.”
The status of Jerusalem is one of the main sticking points in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israel regards the whole city, including the eastern sector it unilaterally annexed after the 1967 Middle East war, as its capital while Palestinian officials, with broad international backing, want occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that his government recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel https://t.co/i64aFsabvl
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) December 15, 2018
Most countries avoided moving embassies to Jerusalem to prevent scuttling peace talks on the city’s final status – until Trump unilaterally moved the US embassy there earlier this year.
In the interim, the prime minister said, Australia would establish a defense and trade office in the west of the holy city.
“Furthermore, recognizing our commitment to a two-state solution, the Australian government is also resolved to acknowledge the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem.”
Morrison also took aim at the United Nations, which he said was a place where Israel is “bullied”.
— AFP news agency (@AFP) December 15, 2018
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously hailed Morrison’s initiative.
The Jerusalem decision could help the embattled Australian PM – who faces the prospect of an election drubbing next year – with Jewish and conservative Christian voters and win him friends in the White House.
The opposition Labor party slammed Morrison for putting “self-interest ahead of the national interest”.
PM @ScottMorrisonMP : Australia now recognises West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We look forward to moving the embassy to West Jerusalem when practical. We will establish a trade and defence office in West Jerusalem now.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) December 15, 2018
Shadow minister for foreign affairs Penny Wong said in a statement:
“Recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while continuing to locate Australia’s embassy in Tel Aviv, is nothing more than a face-saving exercise”.
“This is a decision which is all risk and no gain,” she said, adding it puts Australia “out of step” with the international community.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) December 15, 2018
Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv last year prompted widespread Palestinian protests.
The Palestinian government will press for Arab and Muslim states to “withdraw their ambassadors” and take some “meat and wheat” style “economic boycott measures” over Canberra’s decision, Palestinian ambassador to Australia Izzat Abdulhadi told AFP on Friday.
(AJE, PC, Social Media)