TEL AVIV – Australia is reportedly set to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday, but is likely to postpone moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv due to the high cost of doing so.
The Australian newspaper cited senior government sources as saying Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s cabinet ratified the decision at a national security meeting Tuesday night.
However, cabinet ministers agreed to delay moving the embassy to Jerusalem due to the estimated $200 million cost. Instead, a consular office would be established in the capital.
The new policy change would be announced during Wednesday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting, the report said.
In October, the new prime minister told reporters he was “open-minded” about following the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The announcement was welcomed by Israel, but slammed by Palestinians.
Neighboring Indonesia — along with several other Muslim countries in Asia — also heavily criticized the decision and was reportedly ready to nix a historic free-trade deal with Canberra.
Morrison released a statement clarifying that his government would only formally recognize western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and that eastern Jerusalem would still be the future capital of a Palestinian state.
In a statement to the Sydney Morning Herald, Palestinian envoy to Canberra Izzat Abdulhadi rejected recognizing western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying that such a compromise still “legitimize[d] the illegal occupation of Jerusalem.”
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat slammed the move on Twitter, threatening Australia that Arab and Muslim countries would sever diplomatic ties.
When Morrison made the announcement in October, representatives from 13 Middle Eastern and North African embassies in Australia described the move as a “fatal mistake” that could result in a breakdown in economic relations with the Arab and Muslim world.
The Palestinian Authority delegation to Australia also condemned the move, calling it “deeply disturbing.”
“The short-term political gain that could be secured by moving the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would surely be outweighed by the detriment both to Australia’s international standing and in its relations with Arab and Muslim-majority countries and the international community more broadly,” the delegation said.
The Palestinian leadership at the time warned Australia to “exercise caution and prudence towards this sensitive final-status issue and to seriously consider the consequences of any such move.”