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Israeli Government ‘Puzzled’ Over Australia’s Recognition Of ‘West’ Jerusalem As Capital

The Israeli government welcomed with minimal enthusiasm Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision over the weekend to recognize “West” Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital. Notably, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu failed to release a statement on the matter, whereas the Foreign Ministry described the prospective opening of a trade and defense office in Jerusalem as a “step in the right direction.” For his part, Parliament Speaker Yuli Edelstein called the ordeal “puzzling.” Observers are attributing the modest response to Canberra’s decision to not formally relocate its embassy to the holy city and, perhaps more significantly, due to Morrison’s stated commitment to recognizing the eastern part of Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state in the eventuality of a peace agreement. The tacit implication is that the status of the city remains contested, which contravenes the position of most of the Israeli political spectrum. In fact, aside from the need to curb Iran’s expansionism and prevent its nuclearization, there is perhaps no more binding and oft-stated Israeli strategic objective than to maintain in perpetuity control over a “united” Jerusalem. Not unexpectedly, Palestinian leaders denounced the Australian move, with chief negotiator Saeb Erekat claiming the “irresponsible” policy “contradict[s] world peace and security.” PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki accused Australia of “total bias” toward Israel, while another senior official, Hanan Ashrawai, described the decision as an attempt by Morrison to “use Palestinian rights to bribe the Zionist lobby to gain its support in the [next] election.” Notably, despite the Arab League slamming the move, Bahrain offered tacit support for the announcement and stressed that it in no way harms the Palestinian cause.

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