Donald Trump’s impending move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has been welcomed by an Australian-based pro-Israel group but criticised by Palestinian-Australians.
Breaking with decades of US policy, Mr Trump has already told leaders of the Palestinian Authority and Jordan that he plans to move America’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The decision has sparked fears of a new wave of violence in the occupied Palestinian territories and across the Arab world.
But Dr Danny Lamm, the President of the Zionist Federation of Australia, said he was delighted at the impending announcement.
“It’s a recognition of the fact that Israel is the only nation in the world where its own capital isn’t recognised by the rest of the world,” he said.
“The fact that President Trump, the White House, the United States of America will hopefully make that announcement tomorrow is one that we welcome. Finally.
“Seventy years after the United Nations voted to recognise Israel’s independence, that its capital city should be recognised is more than timely.”
Dr Lamm said he hoped Australia would follow the US lead and recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“I don’t think the Jewish community or Israel will seek to add to any tension or any conflict,” he said.
“It’s a decision that will obviously generate excitement and probably controversy internationally.
“But hopefully over time the free independent Western nations will also come to the conclusion that they have behaved miserably over all this time in not recognising the right of Israel to have its own capital city recognised.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said there are no plans for Australia to shift its embassy from Tel Aviv.
Palestinian advocate ‘angry but not surprised’
Jerusalem is home to key Muslim, Christian and Jewish shrines, which have long been a flashpoint in the protracted Israel-Palestinian conflict.
The United Nations, in its 1947 plan on partition, resolved to place Jerusalem under a “permanent international regime” administered by the UN, meaning neither the Israelis or the Palestinians could claim the city as their capital.
That remains the UN position, even though Israel captured the old city and East Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War and has since passed laws declaring Jerusalem its “eternal and undivided capital”.
In the decades since, the international community — including the US — has refused to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem.
Professor Bassam Dally, the vice president of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, said he was “angry and frustrated but not surprised” by Mr Trump’s decision to reverse decades of US policy.
He said the move could set back Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and lead to protests in the region.
“It may actually trigger much more reaction that people expect … this now amounts to almost an annexation of Jerusalem,” he said.
“The problem with Jerusalem of course is that 240,000 Palestinians live in there. It’s 40 per cent of the Palestinian economy. It is important religiously of course to the Muslims and the Christians.
“Jerusalem is important for a lot of people.
“This may be a trigger for something bigger. I hope it’s not, but I won’t be surprised that there will actions and counter-actions. This is not good for anyone at the end of the day.”
He said he hoped Palestinians would deal with the matter “in the political sphere, rather than going for a third intifada [uprising against Israel]”.
And he called on the Australian Government to acknowledge that the decision by Mr Trump was “unhelpful at least, if not destructive”.