Canberra recognizes West Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel

In a move that is bound to increase diplomatic tensions between Australia and the Middle East (primarily the Palestinian Authority), Canberra has formally confirmed its decision to recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Jerusalem was formerly a part of Palestine, annexed in 1967 by Tel Aviv during the “Six-Day War”. The ancient city also houses the holy sites of three world religions, namely: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. It is claimed in entirety by both Israel and Palestine.

However, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia would also recognize East Jerusalem as the Capital of Palestine, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located. Canberra won’t move its embassy from Tel Aviv until a peace settlement between the two warring sides is reached. Morrison has also indicated that Australia would vehemently support a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

In the meantime, a defense and trade office will be will be established in Jerusalem while searching for an appropriate site for the embassy, as quoted by Morrison.

Morrison said in his address: “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,”

Australia became only the third country to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, following controversial decisions by U.S. and Guatemala. But unlike the two North American nations, Australia recognized only the western part of the city. The move, therefore, is unlikely to please either Israel or PTA.

Morrison had earlier suggested that Australia may follow the controversial U.S. move of relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but it was seen by many Australians as a political maneuver, aimed at winning votes in areas with high Jewish population.

The suggestion had sparked a major diplomatic tussle with Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia, threatening to cancel a free trade deal that has now been delayed.

The decision may have certain positive implications as well. For the Palestinians, it offers a partial resolution to a conflict that they believe should be resolved through negotiations.

On the other hand, refusing to include east Jerusalem in its decision as the capital of Israel, home to the city’s most important religious sites, is likely to upset Israeli nationalists who dominate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet.

As per the UN resolution of 1948, a two state solution is mandated to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict that has resulted in three major wars between the Arab Nations and the Jewish State. A low intensity conflict between the two parties is still ongoing.

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