Ashrawi and Erekat condemn Australia policy change on Jerusalem

Dr Ashrawi, PLO Executive Committee member, called on the Australian Prime Minister to refrain from changing policy by recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and to ensure Australia’s strict adherence to its obligations under international law.

Ashrawi wrote to the Australian PM in response to announcements of plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, noting that such a step “would be unilateral, illegal, and would jeopardize the chances for peace.” She pointed out that pointing out that the change in policy would constitute a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Morrison chose to ignore this appeal, announcing this morning that Australia would go ahead with these plans, and will now recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He announced that the Australian embassy would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem at some future point, after a settlement has been reached on a two-state solution.

Dr. Saeb Erekat, Palestinian Diplomat and former chair of PLO Executive Committee, also spoke out against the move. He condemned the decision as steered by “petty domestic politics” and one that would irresponsibly put world peace and security at stake.  He stated: “All of Jerusalem remains a final status issue for negotiations, while East Jerusalem, under international law, is an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territory.”

He noted that although Morrison claims to support a two-state solution, his administration has in fact done nothing to advance this: “In fact, Australia has chosen to join Trump, Netanyahu, and two other governments, in voting against the two-state solution, in a UN resolution supported by 156 nations. Additionally, the Australian government is refusing to recognize Palestine as a state, voting in international forums against the Palestinian right to self-determination, and continuing to trade with Israeli settlements.”

Australia is one of the first few countries to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, following from the US decision last year.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in his speech announcing the decision, referred to a “rancid stalemate” in the peace process between Israel and Palestine. He said, “Slavish adherence to the conventional wisdom over decades appears only to be further entrenching the stalemate, providing for everyone just to keep doing what they were doing and looking the other way … that’s not the way I deal with problems.”

Morrison also criticized the UN, calling the general assembly a place where “anti-Semitism is cloaked in the language of human rights.”

Morrison put forward the policy in the lead up to a by-election in the constituency of Wentworth, where 12.5% of the population is Jewish. Despite the move, Morrison’s Liberal party did not win the seat in the by-election. The policy has been condemned by the leader of the opposition party, Bill Shorten, who accused Morrison of “putting his political interest ahead of our national interest”.

Palestinian officials have reportedly been calling on Arab and other Muslim nations to boycott Australian products in response to the move. Saudi Arabia is the largest importer of live meat from Australia, and there are concerns that this issue could jeopardise the signing of a free-trade deal between the two nations.