TEL AVIV – Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Sunday said Australia’s recognition of only “West Jerusalem” as Israel’s capital may cause more harm than good by provoking further Palestinian violence.
“We expected more from a friendly country like Australia,” Edelstein told Army Radio.
His comments come in the wake of a watered-down response from Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday, in which the recognition itself is conspicuously omitted and instead praises the Australian government’s decision to open its trade and defense office in Jerusalem as a “step in the right direction.”
Australia announced its decision to recognize the western part of the capital — referring to the areas that were in Israeli control following the 1948 War of Independence — as the Jewish state’s capital but won’t establish an embassy there until there is peace settlement.
According to a senior Israeli official cited by Israeli media, the country was “disappointed” by Canberra’s move.
“We’re disappointed with the Australian decision…[Prime Minister Scott] Morrison only went half-way. It’s a step in the right direction, but we expected more,” the official said. He added that Israel was also disappointed over Canberra’s failure to “withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran.”
Edelstein on Sunday said the Jerusalem move was “not useful” and potentially dangerous.
“I think that not only are the things not useful for any stability in the region but rather it could be said they indirectly encourage Palestinian violence and other [unrealistic] dreams they have,” Edelstein said.
“There is nothing new in it,” he added and noted that even the UN’s cultural body UNESCO, which notoriously passed a number of resolutions that denied any Jewish ties to the Old City of Jerusalem, had made statements “that West Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.”
Edelstein said the decision was “difficult to understand… all of Jerusalem is our eternal capital, not just a part of it.”
“In some ways it sets us back by years,” Edelstein said of Australia’s announcement. “For years the world tried to hand the keys to a future solution to irresponsible players such as the Palestinian Authority and the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], and nothing came of it.”
“I am hopeful that our cool response will perhaps make it clear to the Australians that this is not we were wishing for,” he added.
Edelstein also pooh-poohed the response given by senior Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who called the move “irresponsible.”
“If I was in the Palestinians’ position, I would not be too angry and make too much of a fuss,” Edelstein said. “The copycat attacks we have seen recently are the full responsibility of the Palestinian Authority and in their place I would sit quietly at the moment.”
Last week saw a number of terror attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem that claimed the lives of two soldiers and critically wounded several more civilians, including a seven-months pregnant woman whose baby died after being prematurely delivered in an emergency c-section.
“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 in a statement.