PM Scott MorrisonBrussels, December 19th, 2018 – On Saturday 15th December Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison announced the Australian government’s decision to recognise West Jerusalem as capital of the State of Israel. The Prime Minister stated that “furthermore, recognising our commitment to a two-state solution, the government is also resolved to acknowledge the aspirations of Palestinians for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem. Australia believes this respects our commitment to a two-state solution and longstanding respect to [United Nations] Security Council resolutions. As a result, Australia will establish a defence and trade office in Jerusalem, and only move the embassy in support of and after final status determination”.

The Prime Minister also spoke out against gross bias against Israel in the United Nations. The announcement was immediately rejected by the PLO. Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called on Arab and Muslim countries to sever all diplomatic ties with Australia.

In European Coalition for Israel’s view, recognising West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a step in the right direction, and will hopefully lead to the moving of the Australian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in due course. This recognition is an appropriate acknowledgement of Israel’s sovereign right to determine its own capital city, and simply reflects the reality on the ground that all institutions of government are located in Jerusalem.

The distinction between “East” and “West” Jerusalem, however, is in our view unfortunate. So is the Australian Government’s “acknowledgement of Palestinian aspirations for Statehood with East Jerusalem as capital”, and the statement that the moving of the embassy will only occur as and when a State of Palestine has been established pursuant to negotiations. Such an announcement not only ignores the failure of the Palestinians to create the conditions necessary for statehood, it prejudices Israel’s position in its negotiations concerning Jerusalem, which is a final status issue under the Oslo agreements.

Israel’s position is that the whole of the city of Jerusalem belonged to the Mandate for Palestine, and therefore to the sovereign territory of the State of Israel on its establishment in May 1948. It is only because of Arab aggression that the city was divided between 1949 and 1967. The UN Security Council’s demanded in 1980 (UNSC Resolution 476) that foreign embassies in Israel be moved from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, following Israel’s reunification of the city after the 1967 Six Day War. In Israel’s view, which ECI believes is correct, Resolution 476 is based on an erroneous belief that “West” Jerusalem does not belong to the State of Israel. It failed to recognise the legal significance of the San Remo resolution (1920) and the Mandate for Palestine (1922), pursuant to which the whole city of Jerusalem became part of the State of Israel on its establishment in 1948. Further, it is important to emphasise that UN Security Council resolutions on this issue are not binding. It is also important to note that Resolution 476 conflicts with the earlier Security Council Resolution 242 (November 1967), which acknowledged Israel’s right to secure borders. The PLO and Israel have agreed (in the Oslo Accords) that the principles laid down in Resolution 242 form the basis for their negotiations.

European Coalition for Israel’s involvement in Australia began in 2012 when Australian born Andrew Tucker became ECI’s Legal Counsel. In cooperation with local partners, in particular Christians for Israel and Bridges for Peace, the European Coalition for Israel has been involved over a number of years in encouraging the Australian government to recognise the unified city of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. ECI has made several written submissions to the government in Australia, and Andrew Tucker has frequently met with government representatives and members of Parliament in Canberra.

Just three days before the announcement of Prime Minister Morrison, ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell and ECI Director for UN Affairs Gregory Lafitte had the opportunity to meet with the Australian Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, Ambassador Gillian Bird to discuss the Australian position.

ECI staff, including Legal Counsel Andrew Tucker, has been in regular contact with the office of the Australian Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, which will be responsible for implementing Australia’s new policy announcement.