Prime Minister Scott Morrison formally announced that Australia officially recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. However, the Australian embassy will remain in Tel Aviv until a peace settlement has been arrived at between Israel and Palestine.
For the time being, Morrison said that his administration will set up a defense and trade office in Jerusalem and will also start scouting for an appropriate location for the embassy:
“The Australian government has decided that Australia now recognizes West Jerusalem, as the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel.”
He added that the decision reflects commitment to a two-state solution and longstanding respect for relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Earlier, PM Morrison expressed intent on following the contentious U.S. move of relocating its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
However, many Australians thought that it was just another political stunt to win votes in a by-election in October for a Sydney seat with a high Jewish population.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said that recognizing west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without relocating the embassy was a “humiliating backdown” from the October by-election campaign where PM Morrison’s party lost.
“What I’m worried is that Mr. Morrison put his political interest ahead of our national interest,” Shorten told reporters.
In a letter to Morrison, PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi urged him to reconsider the move. Ashwari believes PM Morrison’s decision will make diplomatic relations more difficult:
“The only way to resolve the issue of Jerusalem would be to recognize the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital in line with international law.”
Izzat Salah Abdulhadi, head of the Palestinian Delegation to Australia, said acknowledging two capitals reflect a genuine commitment to a two-state solution but he stressed that Jerusalem will be regarded by Israel, as its “eternal and undivided capital”
“Recognition of any part of it before serious compromises and genuine concessions have been made will be seen, at least to some extent, as rewarding this intransigence.”