Canberra, Dec 15 (IANS) Australia on Saturday officially recognized West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel after a period of consultations at home and abroad, prompting criticism from Palestine against the move.
“Australia now recognizes West Jerusalem, being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison during an address at the Sydney Institute.
“We look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical… and after final status determination,” he was quoted as saying by the BBC.
The country’s embassy, however, will continue to remain in Tel Aviv until a peace settlement is achieved and Australia will instead establish a Trade and Defence Office in West Jerusalem.
Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Secretary General Saeb Erekat decried the move, saying that Australia chose to join US President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and two other governments, voting against the two-state solution, Efe news reported.
“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,” Erekat said.
“Australia’s announcement to open a trade office in the city negates its very claim that it abides by UN Security Council Resolution 478, which refers to Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem as null and void and calls upon countries to withdraw diplomatic missions from the city,” the Palestinian leader added.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee who sent a letter to the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, on Friday to urge him not to move the Australian embassy to Jerusalem, said that Australia has become “a partner in the war crimes that Israel exercises in the West Bank” with this recognition.
Morrison, in his address, also announced his support for recognising a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital in the future and added that Australia was supporting “liberal democracy” in the Middle East.
The Saturday’s decision, he said, was in line with Australia’s commitment to the two states solution and its longstanding respect for UN Security Council resolutions.
He said that Jerusalem “deserves better than the rancid stalemate and better than the polarization that marks its peoples”, Efe news reported.
Morrison’s decision was also criticized by the opposition at home and rattled Indonesia, a historical ally of Palestine.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo had earlier warned that recognizing Jerusalem could jeopardise Australia’s relationship with his country, which has the largest Islamic population in the world.
Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump’s administration shifted its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Guatemala and Paraguay followed suit, although the latter had reversed the decision soon after, following a change in government.