Australia has formally recognised West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Saturday.
“The Australian government has decided that Australia now recognises West Jerusalem, as the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel. We look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of and after final status of determination,” he added. Work on a new site for the embassy is currently under way.
Morrison also said his Government will establish a defence and trade office in Jerusalem. Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the decision “a step in the right direction” and praised the Australian Government’s stance on “sanctions on Iran and also regarding its pro-Israel position at the UN and against antisemitism.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein criticised Australia for not recognising a unified Jerusalem, saying the announcement was “nothing new … even UNESCO has made similar announcements that West Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. I hope our chilly response will make it clear to the Australians that this is far from what we were hoping for.”
Representatives of Arab countries will meet in Cairo tomorrow to discuss Australia’s announcement. Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit condemned Australia’s “favouritism toward Israel”.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said the decision was “one wherein petty domestic politics steer irresponsible policies that contradict world peace and security.” He added that “all of Jerusalem remains a final-status issue for negotiations, while East Jerusalem, under international law, is an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territory”.
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said the announcement: “Did not undermine the legitimate Palestinian demands, most of all that East Jerusalem be the Palestinian capital. Australia’s recognition does not contradict the Arab peace initiative at all”.