Australian Prime Minister Scott Morison announced Canberra’s official recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. While initial reports indicated an Australian reluctance to relocate its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the Australian Prime Minister said that work has started to identify a suitable site for an Australian embassy in the Western part of the city, once Israel and the Palestinians reach a final status peace agreement. “Australia now recognizes West Jerusalem, being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel. West Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and we look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of and after final status determination,” Scott Morrison, Australian Prime Minister said.
While the highly anticipated recognition of Jerusalem ‘lost half of its weight’ when Canberra decided to split the city into two parts; Reactions in Israel were mixed. While an official Foreign Ministry statement described the Australian move as a step in the “right direction,” other Israeli officials said they were “disappointed” that Australia chose to only recognize the western part of the city as Israeli. “Australia is deep and intimate friend of many years’ standing of Israel. We were happy to hear that it has an interest to clarify its recognition in Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But to our regret, within this positive news they made a mistake. There is no division between the east of the city and west of the city. Jerusalem is one whole, united. Israel’s control over it is eternal. Our sovereignty will not be partitioned nor undermined. And we hope Australia will soon find the way to fix the mistake it made,” Tzahi Hanegbi, Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister said.
Prior to the Australian announcement, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah called on Prime Minister Morrison to preserve its historic role as “a balanced country.” “Why should Australia really be just a follower of Mr. Trump’s decisions in the United Nations. Australia has always been an important country to us, friendly country, a balanced country and I understand the balance has not been fulfilled up till now, that is, it will be fulfilled when Australia recognises officially the right of the Palestinians to a Palestinian state of their own with East Jerusalem as its capital. That would really make some balance, but all of this, that started with the Australian Prime Minister wanting to declare Jerusalem to be the capital of the State of Israel, and the changes it made are not sufficient,” Nabil Shaath, Senior Palestinian official said.
In response to the Palestinian call, and growing pressure from Muslim countries, Prime Minister Morrison reportedly scaled backed from his initial position, and under scored Canberra’s commitment to acknowledge the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state with East Jerusalem as its capital. “Furthermore recognizing our commitment to a two-state solution, the Australian government has also resolved to acknowledge the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem.” / “Australia believes this position respects both our commitment to a two-state solution and long-standing respect for relevant security Council resolutions. It’s a balanced view. It’s a measured view. It’s a well-considered view. It reinforces our clear view that the status of Jerusalem can only be resolved through direct negotiations between the parties consistent with those relevant Security Council resolutions,” Scott Morrison, Australian Prime Minister said.