Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday said the country will formally recognise West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but will not shift its embassy from present capital Tel Aviv until a two-state solution is agreed upon, The Guardian reported. He said the government will also recognise a future state of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem.
The United States had in May announced the relocation of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel considers Jerusalem its indivisible capital and wants all embassies based there. Palestinians want the capital of an independent Palestinian state to be in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war and annexed.
“The Australian government has decided that Australia now recognises West Jerusalem – as the seat of the Knesset [Israel’s parliament] and many of the institutions of government – is the capital of Israel,” Morrison said in a speech at the Sydney Institute. “And we look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of, and after, final-status determination.”
Morrison in October had said the government was considering such a proposal, a move criticised by officials in Palestine and Muslim-majority Indonesia, which is Australia’s trading partner.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said the decision was a “humiliating backdown” from a rushed bye-election in Sydney in October, which led to the governing coalition losing its one-seat majority in the parliament. Shorten also accused Morrison of putting “his political interest ahead of our national interest”.
The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network earlier had earlier said that Australia recognising West Jerusalem as the Israeli capital would damage the peace process, ABC reported. “It serves no Australian interest, will weaken our trade and security relations with regional partners, and may irreparably injure our international reputation by aligning Australia with the Trump and Netanyahu governments against an overwhelming international consensus regarding the status of Jerusalem,” network president Bishop George Browning had said.