Australia recognises West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; Arab League fumes. Full details

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that Canberra formally recognises West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. However, it will not move its embassy from Tel Aviv until a peace settlement has been reached.

Prime Minister Morrison has said that his government will also recognise a future state of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem, after a settlement has been reached on a two-state solution.

Morrison made the announcement during his speech to the Sydney Institute on Saturday.

“Australia now recognises West Jerusalem—being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government
—is the capital of Israel,” Morrison said in his speech.

“We look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of and after final status of determination,” Morrison said, as per a report in Al Jazeera.  

The Prime Minister added that work on a new site for the embassy was underway. In the meantime, Morrison said that Australia would establish a defence and trade office in the west of Jerusalem.

Morrison said, “A two-state solution remains the only viable way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The obstacles, we must admit, to achieving such a solution are becoming insurmountable.” He added that Australia has resolved to acknowledge “the aspirations of Palestinians people for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem,” reported.

The international community has never formally recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Both Israel and Palestine claim Jerusalem to be their capital. Most foreign nations have avoided moving embassies there to prevent inflaming peace talks on the city’s final status.

How other countries reacted 

The Palestinians and the Arab League, on Saturday, condemned Australia’s recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but the move was well received by Bahrain.

In a statement, the Arab League said it “strongly condemns”Australia’s move which it called “irresponsible and biased” and “contrary to international law.”

It warned that the decision would only “encourage the occupation to continue its aggression, arrogance, settlement, and defiance of international resolutions,” adding that the move could seriously impact Arab-Australian relations.

However, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa considered the statement “irresponsible”, and said in a tweet: “These are irresponsible statements. Australia’s position does not hamper the legitimate demands of the Palestinians and first and foremost East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. It also does not contradict the Arab Peace Initiative,”as per a report in the Times of Israel.

Malaysia opposed the Australian government’s move to recognise West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, calling the decision “premature”and a “humiliation to the Palestinians”.

The Malaysian foreign ministry vehemently opposed the changes in a statement on Sunday. “This announcement, made before the settlement of a two-state solution, is premature and a humiliation to the Palestinians and their struggle for the right to self-determination,” the ministry said, News.comreported.

Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s minister for regional cooperation and Prime Minister Benjami Netanyahu’s confidant, called the move “a mistake”. “There is no division between the east of the city and west of the city. Jerusalem is one whole, united,” Hanegbi said, the Guardianreported.  

“Israel’s control over it is eternal. Our sovereignty will not be partitioned nor undermined. And we hope Australia will soon find the way to fix the mistake it made.”

Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

In December 2017, US President Donald Trump formally recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and called for a plan to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Speaking from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Trump said that his administration acknowledges “that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.” “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done,” as per a New York Times report.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump’s announcement as a “historic landmark,” while Washington’s close allies, such as Britain and France, remained critical.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the United States has abdicated its role as a mediator in peace efforts.

The Israel-Palestine conflict

Israel is the only Jewish state in the world, located just east of the Mediterranean Sea. Palestinians, the Arab population that hails from the land Israel now controls, refer to the territory as Palestine, and they now want to establish a state by that name on all or part of the same land. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is over who gets what land and how it’s controlled.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become a huge issue in the region as well as around the world. Israel has fought several wars with each of its four neighbors, all of whom support the Palestinian cause.

Israel currently has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan ,but its relations with Syria and Lebanon continue to remain distressed. Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia are the other three important players in the equation.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas continues to remain distrustful of Israel’s right-wing coalition government. On the other hand, Netanyahu has been a critic of a two-state solution, which has led many to raise doubts over his commitment to the solution.

Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius

Arab LeagueAustraliaBahrainDonald TrumpIsraelPalestinetwo-state solutionWest Jerusalem