US Politics

Australia's Palestinian and Israeli communities react to Trump's Jerusalem move

Australia's Palestinian community has reacted furiously to President Trump's stance on Jerusalem and shared their disappointment in the Australian government's response.

Palestinian-Australians have expressed anger over Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and have called on the Australian government to be stronger in their condemnation of the US president.

The Australian embassy in Israel will remain in Tel Aviv despite the US administration's decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

Mr Trump has overturned decades of US policy with his announcement confirming the move sparking a mixed reaction in Australia.

'We are all angry'

George Hatoum, from Australia's Palestine Advocacy Network, said he and his community were "horrified" by the decision.

"We are all angry and horrified and disappointed," he told SBS World News.

"We call upon the Australian government to condemn in the strongest possible terms this unilateral action which is destructive to the peace and the peace process."

Mr Hatoum said he was surprised by the lack of even-handedness in Mr Trump's decision.

SBS EXPLAINS: WHY IS MOVING THE EMBASSY TO JERUSALEM SUCH A BIG DEAL? 

"Trump should have recognised East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine if he wanted to recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel," he said.

Mr Hatoum said he was pleased the Australian embassy would remain in Tel Aviv but wanted the government to do more.

"Everyone condemned the actions while Australia is trying to sit on the fence. That is not enough," he said.

Australian Jewish community welcomes US embassy move to Jerusalem
Australian Jewish community welcomes US embassy move to Jerusalem

Australia won't 'follow suit'

The Australian embassy is currently located on the 28th floor of a building in downtown Tel Aviv. But the peak body that represents Australia's Jewish community would like it moved to Jerusalem.

Peter Wertheim, from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said he hoped Australia would follow the US in their decision.

"The Czech Republic has already announced that it will follow the United States in recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital and that it will consider moving its embassy there … so we hope in the coming years Australia also might follow suit," he said.

But Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said that was not an option.

"We will not be taking steps to move our embassy. It will continue to offer diplomatic representation in Tel Aviv," she said.

Ms Bishop maintains the best outcome for the Israeli and Palestinian people is a negotiated two-state solution.

She said she was concerned that any unilateral action could add to tensions.

Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong agreed.

"I think Australia should make its position clear and that is we support a two-state solution. We don't support actions which make that outcome less likely," she said.

A woman walks past sprayed graffiti of US President Donald Trump is seen on the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, 6 December 2017.
A woman walks past sprayed graffiti of US President Donald Trump is seen on the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, 6 December 2017.
AAP

'No legal impact'

A spokesman for the Palestinian embassy in Australia said Mr Trump’s decision "flies in the face of international law, United Nations resolutions, and countless international conventions and agreements".

“However, the statement by President Trump has no impact on the international legal status of Jerusalem,” the spokesman said.

“It likewise does not change the identity of Jerusalem as the home of all three monotheistic religions, nor does it erase the history and culture of Palestinian Jerusalemites.”

The embassy spokesman said Mr Trump’s statement provided ammunition to extremist groups for "reprehensible acts of terrorism".

"The statement has caused outrage in the Middle East and will lead to increased instability and sectarian violence in an already troubled region," the spokesman said.

But when considering Australia's response to the issue, US Studies Centre's Brendan O'Connor felt the country was not likely to bow to pressures to do more.

He said it was an indication Australia had decided it was better not to incite conflict with the US president.

"The Australian government's approach is to hope for the best for Trump, to try to keep close to the administration and maybe fret behind closed doors," he said.

'Trump has upended decades of foreign policy'
'Trump has upended decades of foreign policy'