The Washington Post Sunday

In stark policy shift, Australia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital


sydney — Australia formally recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reversing decades of Middle East policy, but will not move its embassy there immediatel­y, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Saturday.

“Australia now recognizes West Jerusalem, being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutio­ns of government, is the capital of Israel,” Morrison said.

“We look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Morrison also confirmed Australia’s support for a two-state solution with a Palestinia­n capital in East Jerusalem.

In October, Morrison said he was open to shifting Australia’s embassy from Tel Aviv. President Trump’s move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in May delighted Israel, infuriated Palestinia­ns and upset the wider Arab world and Western allies.

Morrison’s unexpected announceme­nt in October was viewed cynically at the time because it came days before a crucial by-election in an electorate with a strong Jewish representa­tion, a poll his party subsequent­ly lost.

It also drew criticism from Muslim-majority neighbors such as Indonesia and Malaysia, neither of which formally recognizes Israel’s right to exist.

Arab countries, meanwhile, worry the move would unnecessar­ily inflame tensions in the Middle East.

Morrison said Australia would not move its embassy to West Jerusalem until the city’s final status was determined but said trade and defense offices would be opened there.

“Israel views the decision of the Australian government to open its Trade and Defence office in Jerusalem as a step in the right direction,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Palestinia­n chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, however, said the move stemmed from “petty domestic politics.”

“The policies of this Australian administra­tion have done nothing to advance the two-state solution,” Erekat said in a statement. “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.”

Saeed Abu Ali, the Arab League’s assistant secretary general for Palestine and the Occupied Arab Territorie­s, condemned Australia’s decision as a break with the internatio­nal community’s positions that disregards internatio­nal law.

In a statement, he said it was “blatantly biased towards the positions and policies of the Israeli occupation.”

Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Arrmanatha Nasir, noted that Australia had not moved its embassy to Jerusalem and called on all members of the United Nations to recognize a Palestinia­n state “based on the principle of two-state solutions.”

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