Condemnation grows over Australia's Jerusalem move

Published 17.12.2018 00:07
Updated 17.12.2018 08:00

Australia's Jerusalem move has triggered increasing condemnation across the Muslim and Arab worlds. The move "stirs dismay" and is "biased," the head of the Arab League said yesterday. "Recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel's capital while ignoring recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine shows glaring bias towards Israel," Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit said. He also called on Australia to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

The Palestinian leadership on Saturday described Australia's Jerusalem move as "irresponsible," saying it violated international law. "The policies of this Australian administration have done nothing to advance the two-state solution," Palestinian leader Saeb Erekat said in a statement, stressing the Palestinian view that the holy city remains a final-status issue in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which have run aground.

Australia has decided to formally recognize west Jerusalem as Israel's capital, but won't move its embassy until there's a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Saturday. While the embassy move is delayed, Morrison said his government would establish a defense and trade office in Jerusalem and would also start looking for an appropriate site for the embassy.

Australia becomes the third country to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, following the U.S. and Guatemala. Australian Prime Minister Morrison had earlier floated the idea that Australia may follow the contentious U.S. move of relocating its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, but it was seen by many Australians as a political stunt. Critics called it a cynical attempt to win votes in a by-election in October for a Sydney seat with a high Jewish population.

The move came months after the U.S. administration's controversial decision to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. U.S. President Trump outraged the Arab world and stoked international concern by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December. Palestinians sued the U.S. at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the first time over the embassy move, which violates international obligations flowing from the Vienna Convention. The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest disputes between Israel and the Palestine and Palestinian leaders accused Trump of sowing instability by overturning decades of U.S. policy. The embassy was officially transferred on May 14, with Guatemala and Paraguay following suit, although the latter announced in October it would return its embassy to Tel Aviv.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in a move that is not internationally recognized. Most foreign nations have avoided locating embassies there for fear of prejudging peace talks on the city's final status. According to Israeli media, other countries are expected to open embassies in Jerusalem in the near future, including Honduras and the Czech Republic. Poised to follow the U.S. president in his most radical foreign policy position, Brazil's far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, last month, vowed to become the next country to follow and move its embassy to Jerusalem.

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