Australia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israeli capital


Palestinian and Israeli officials were oddly united in expressing bitter disappointment in Australia’s ‘half-way’ decision to recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish State, and the move also faced criticism at home.

Canberra is to open a defense and trade office in Jerusalem after it formally recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Saturday. Relocating the country’s embassy, however, will only take place after a two-state solution is reached. Until then, Australia will hold off on its decision to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

The Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister immediately rejected and condemned the decision, accusing Morrison of a “total bias” towards Israel and seeking to “appease the Zionist lobby” in Australia. “The recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital must be accompanied by recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine,” Riad al-Maliki said. The same sentiment was shared by PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi who accused the Australian leadership of “using Palestinian rights to bribe the Zionist lobby to gain its support in the election.”

Australia’s failure to follow in Donald Trump’s footsteps and recognize the entirety of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel received mixed reactions from the Israeli establishment. While the Foreign Ministry, headed by PM Benjamin Netanyahu, politely called the recognition “a step in the right direction,” some politicians expressed bitter disappointment.

“All of Jerusalem is our eternal capital,” said Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud). Israel is “disappointed” that the Australian government “only went half-way,” said another government official, who chose to remain anonymous. “We expected more.”

Morrison, who earlier hinted that recognition of all Jerusalem was possible, also faced a backlash from politicians back home. Opposition leader Bill Shorten called the government announcement a “humiliating backdown” from campaign promises, accusing the Prime Minister of placing “political interest ahead of our national interest.”