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Australia recognises West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but embassy stays in Tel Aviv

The Australian Government has recognised West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and but said its embassy will remain in Tel Aviv for the time being.

Making the announcement on Saturday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison ended a long-standing policy of recognising Tel Aviv as the country’s capital, saying that Australia “now recognises West Jerusalem, being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel”.

He said that while Australia would move its embassy to West Jerusalem “when practical, in support of and after, final status determination”, for the time being it would remain in Tel Aviv. But he added that a new trade and defence office would be opened in West Jerusalem.

Morrison said the country remained committed to a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine.

“Furthermore, 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.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten described the decision not to immediately relocate Australia’s embassy to Jerusalem as a “humiliating backdown” for the Prime Minister who first announced a review of the embassy’s location in the lead-up to the Wentworth by-election.

The Israeli Government, meanwhile, has reportedly welcomed the move to open the new office in West Jerusalem with its foreign ministry issuing a statement describing it as a “step in the right direction”.

But the Australian Palestine Advocacy Network issued a statement deploring it. 

Bishop George Browning, president of the APAN, said the move “serves no Australian interest, will weaken our trade and security relations with regional partners, and may irreparably injure our international reputation by aligning Australia with the Trump and Netanyahu governments against an overwhelming international consensus regarding the status of Jerusalem”.

The move comes in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel late last year; its embassy relocated there in May.


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