The Australian government expects to announce that it recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Saturday, but it also will be dedicated to recognizing a future state of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem.
Back in June, then-foreign minister Julie Bishop said, “While I understand the sentiment behind this resolution, the Australian government will not be moving our embassy to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a final status issue and we have maintained that position for decades and we are doing all we can do to ensure that any support we give to the Palestinian Authority is only used for purposes that we determine.”
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison, an evangelical Christian, said in October that he was “open-minded” about recognizing Jerusalem, a la President Trump. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded in a tweet, “I spoke today with Australian PM @ScottMorrisonMP. He informed me that he is considering officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel & moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem. I’m very thankful to him for this. We will continue to strengthen ties between Israel and Australia.”
Morrison is expected to say, “The Australian government has decided that Australia now recognizes West Jerusalem, as the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel. And we look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of, and after, final-status determination. Australia believes this position respects both our commitment to a two-state solution and longstanding respect for relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”
The Times of Israel noted, “Australia’s spy agency warned the move could provoke further violent unrest in Israel, while opposition lawmakers accused the prime minister of cynically pandering to Jewish voters ahead of a crucial by-election.” The spy agency stated, “We expect any announcement on the possible relocation of the Australian embassy to Jerusalem or consideration of voting against Palestinians in the United Nations may provoke protest, unrest and possibly some violence in Gaza and the West Bank.”
The spy agency added, “While a small number of Australian-based individuals maintain a violent Islamist extremist ideology that includes a strong anti-Semitic element, we are not aware of any specific or credible terrorist threat to Israel or Jewish interests in Australia.”
Palestinian official Saeb Erekat urged Arab and Muslim countries to sever all diplomatic ties with Australia if it recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He tweeted that Arab and Muslim summits have adopted resolutions that would terminate diplomatic ties with any country which recognizes Jerusalem as belonging to Israel.
Morrison’s supporters have expressed their view that Israel should be able to choose its own capital.
The Australian government told its citizens that if they were visiting Muslim-majority Indonesia, to be alert, as there would likely be protests over Australia’s decision. Australia’s foreign ministry stated on Friday, “Demonstrations have been held in recent weeks around the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and the Australian Consulate-General in Surabaya. Protests may continue at the Embassy in Jakarta or at any of Australia’s Consulates-General in Surabaya, Bali and Makassar. Exercise a high degree of caution.”