(AAP Image/Lukas Coch)
Scott Morrison

“We have said and will continue to insist on this – Greater Jerusalem, not just a part of it, is our eternal capital forever,” the Knesset Speaker stated. 

By: United with Israel Staff and AP

Australia has decided to formally recognize “West Jerusalem” as Israel’s capital but won’t move its embassy until there’s a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Saturday.

Morrison said that Australia – the third country to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, following the US and Guatemala – would recognize “East Jerusalem” as Palestine’s capital only after a settlement has been reached on a two-state solution.

While the embassy move is delayed, Morrison said his government will establish a defense and trade office in Jerusalem and start looking for an appropriate site for the embassy. The decision respects both a commitment to a two-state solution and long-standing respect for relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, he added.

‘A Humiliating Backdown’

In October, Morrison suggested that Australia may follow the U.S. in relocating its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, but it was seen by many Australians as a political stunt. Critics called it a cynical attempt to win votes in a by-election in October for a Sydney seat with a high Jewish population.

The consideration had sparked backlash from Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia, threatening a free trade deal that has now been delayed.

Australia’s Opposition leader Bill Shorten said the decision to recognize western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but not move the embassy there was a “humiliating backdown” from the October by-election campaign. “What I’m worried about is that Mr. Morrison put his political interest ahead of our national interest,” Shorten told reporters on Saturday.

‘Step in the Right Direction’

Israel’s foreign ministry commended Australia’s move as “a step in the right direction.” In a statement, it also praised the Australian government’s stance against anti-Semitism and its pro-Israel position at the UN.

Tzachi Hanegbi, Israeli Minister for Regional Cooperation, tweeted Sunday that “Australia is a great friend of Israel and we greatly appreciate our friendship and warm relations. But there is no such thing as ‘West Jerusalem’ and ‘East Jerusalem.’ There is only Jerusalem, the eternal and undivided capital of the State of Israel.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein likewise tweeted that he was “baffled” by Australia’s recognition of “West Jerusalem.”

“We have said and will continue to insist on this – Greater Jerusalem, not just a part of it, is our eternal capital forever,” he stated.

Palestinians Slam ‘Irresponsible Policies’

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat slammed Australia’s “irresponsible policies” that led to the recognition.

“The policies of this Australian administration have done nothing to advance the two-state solution,” Erekat said in a statement, stressing the Palestinian view that the Holy City remains a final-status issue in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which have run aground.

In April 2017, the Russian Foreign Ministry made a similar move to recognize “west Jerusalem” as the Israeli capital.

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