‘West Jerusalem is the capital of Israel’

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Peter Haskin

AUSTRALIA now recognises West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced yesterday.

It follows a pledge made by the Prime Minister prior to October’s Wentworth by-election that the government would undertake a review into the merits of moving Australia’s embassy, a move interpreted at the time by some analysts as an attempt to woo Jewish voters.

Speaking at The Sydney Institute yesterday, the Prime Minister said Australia is committed to a two-state-solution and also slammed the United Nations for bullying Israel and for its “anti-Semitic agenda”.

“Being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government … West Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” Morrison said.

“We look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of and after a final status determination. We have decided to start the work though now to try and identify a suitable site for an Australian embassy in West Jerusalem.”

He said that in the meantime the Australian government will establish a trade and defence office in the city, and added, “Recognising our commitment to a two-state solution, the Australian government has also resolved to acknowledge the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem.”

Labor, whose national conference this weekend is expected to debate whether to unilaterally recognise a Palestinian state, slammed the decision.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused the Prime Minister of a “humiliating backdown” while opposition foreign affairs spokesperson Penny Wong said, “zASSZASThe status of Jerusalem can only be resolved as part of any peace negotiations and two-state solution.”

Calling the announcement “ground-breaking”, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) praised the announcement as “a simple acknowledgement of a reality that has existed since 1950”.

“Recognising that Israel’s seat of government is located in the western part of the city, which is incontestably sovereign Israeli territory, does not in any way impact upon or prejudge the future status of the contested eastern and other parts of the city captured by Israel in 1967”, ECAJ President Anton Block and co-CEOs Peter Wertheim and Alex Ryvchin said.

“The Prime Minister noted that Jerusalem’s ultimate status, including its borders and boundaries, is a final status issue to be resolved between the parties.

“The Australian government’s announcement sends a message to Palestinian leaders that their unilateralist approach, seeking to prise concessions out of Israel without any quid pro quo, through the UN and its agencies and via the BDS campaign, is rejected by reasonable people, and has had the opposite results to those the Palestinians had intended. It’s a failed strategy, and the Palestinians need to return to the negotiating table.”

The ECAJ also welcomed the Prime Minister’s criticism of the “biased and unfair targeting of Israel” in the UN General Assembly.

The Israeli foreign ministry said, “Israel views the decision of the Australian government to open its trade and defence office in Jerusalem as a step in the right direction.

“Israel congratulates the government of Australia for its stance regarding sanctions on Iran and also regarding its pro-Israel position at the UN and against antisemitism.”