The decision by the Australian government to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and wait to move its embassy until there is an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is good for Israel. It’s also a reality check for the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which mistakenly believes that the world is in its pocket.
It was U.S. President Donald Trump who insisted that the American decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move its embassy there was no more than an acknowledgement of reality. But despite the fact that the embassy is situated in the West part of the city, and although Trump declared that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital did not constitute a taking a position on the borders of Israel’s sovereignty in the city, the decision had a decidedly one-sided whiff to it – so much so that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has since been boycotting the Americans and refuses to return to the negotiating table.
In contrast to the American move, which only recognized the Israeli reality and ignored the Palestinian reality, the remarks by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison reflect reality more reliably. On the one hand, the Australians recognize what is self-evident about West Jerusalem. “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,” Morrison said, and promised to establish a bureau in the city to deal with security and trade issues. At the same time the Australians see as self-evident that East Jerusalem is slated to be the capital of Palestine, and promised to recognize it as such when the time comes.
It’s no surprise that, according to political sources, “There was disappointment with the recognition of West Jerusalem.” Netanyahu and his government, the peace resisters, have been misleading the public to think the world has come to terms with throwing the two-state solution into the dustbin of history and is even willing to ignore Israel’s continued military control over the Palestinians. The Australian government’s decision is an important reminder that, with the exception of the Israeli right, there is an international consensus that there is no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict other than the two-state solution.
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“We expected more from a friendly country like Australia,” said Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who went even further and claimed that the decision encourages Palestinian violence, as if the Palestinian areas of Jerusalem haven’t been inflamed almost nonstop since the U.S. declaration. One hopes that the Americans will follow Australia’s lead, recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state, bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table and press the two sides to sign a two-state agreement.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.