by: Jo Sarah Stanford
Monday, 17 December 2018 | After months of speculation Australian prime minister Scott Morrison announced on Saturday that the Australian government officially recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. However, he stopped short of recognizing the whole of the city as the capital and said the embassy will not be moved until a peace deal with the Palestinians has been finalized.
In a speech, Morrison stated that “Australia now recognizes West Jerusalem…[as] 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.” Rather than opening a consulate, the government will open a trade and defense office in Jerusalem.
The “halfway” decision has left parties on both sides of the debate at odds with Australia. Israel’s criticism came because Australia did not acknowledge Jerusalem in its entirety, and the Palestinians were outraged that Australia acknowledged the Israeli capital at all.
Officially, Israel has praised the decision. Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon, tweeted, “Israel views the decision of the Australian govt. to open its Trade and Defense office in Jerusalem as a step in the right direction…”
An anonymous official said the Israeli government was disappointed that the decision did not include recognizing the whole of Jerusalem or moving the embassy now. “It’s a step in the right direction, but we expected more,” reported the Times of Israel. Others have questioned the use of the terms “East” and “West” Jerusalem, stating there is no such division—only “Jerusalem.”
Palestine Liberation Organization officials have called on Arab nations to boycott trade with Australia, while the Palestinian Authority (PA) has condemned the move as a “wrong step,” reported Israel National News. The Jerusalem Post quoted the Arab League as saying the decision was “blatantly biased towards the positions and policies of the Israeli occupation.”
Not all Arab nations shared their sentiment though. Bahrain hit back, saying the Arab League’s response was “mere rhetoric and irresponsible,” and that “Australia’s stance does not impact the legitimate Palestinian demands,” reported the Jerusalem Post.
The greatest backlash was expected from Indonesia, a country that has no diplomatic ties with Jerusalem, fails to recognize Israel’s existence and is home to the world’s largest Muslim majority. Indonesia was initially angered by the proposal and had threatened to walk away from trade deals, had the recognition of Jerusalem gone ahead.
In the lead-up to the announcement, the Australian government issued a warning to those travelling to Indonesia, a popular tourist destination. Yet the “travel advice level” remained unchanged.
However, after the announcement the Indonesian government’s response was low-key. All they said was that it “notes” the decision, the Times of Israel reported.
The Times of Israel also noted that Australia’s other Muslim-majority neighbor, Malaysia, strongly opposed the decision, calling it a “humiliation” to the Palestinian people.
For her part, the Australian opposition foreign minister said her party will reverse the decision if they win the election in March next year.
In his speech, Morrison took the opportunity to address other areas of anti-Israel bias in the international arena. He condemned Hamas and those who refused to label them as a terrorist organization and warned against Iranian aggression. He also criticized the United Nations for the amount of resolutions made against Israel, marking another change in Australian policy. “Last month, at my direction, Australia opposed six resolutions that attacked Israel in the UN General Assembly…In the past, we had abstained on these resolutions. Not anymore and not on my watch.”
The director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former Israeli ambassador to Australia expressed his gratitude in a tweet, “Thank you @ScottMorrisonMP for reaffirming the longstanding [Israeli–Australian] partnership and #Australia’s genuine commitment to Israel’s security.”
Posted on December 17, 2018
Source: (Bridges for Peace, December 17, 2018)
Photo Credit: ILTV Israel Daily/Screenshot/YouTube
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