In a surprise move, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa on Saturday defended Australia’s decision to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying it would not affect the establishment of a future Palestinian state, after the Arab League “strongly condemned” the decision, The Times of Israel reported.
Australia confirmed the decision early on Saturday, reversing decades of Middle East policy. In announcing the move, Prime Minister Scott Morrison reaffirmed Australia’s support for a two-state solution and said the country would not move its embassy to West Jerusalem immediately.
“Australia now recognises West Jerusalem, being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel,” Morrison said. “We look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical,” he told reporters.
In response, the Arab League issued a statement blasting the Australian decision as “blatantly biased towards the positions and policies of the Israeli occupation” and “contrary to international law.” The organization warned that the move could have serious ramifications for Arab-Australian relations.
Meanwhile, senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called on Arab nations to sever ties with Australia and charged that the decision was “one wherein petty domestic politics steer irresponsible policies that contradict world peace and security.”
However, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa sharply criticized the Arab League for their “irresponsible statements,” and publicly defended Australia’s decision to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on social media.
He clarified that “Australia’s position does not hamper the legitimate demands of the Palestinians and first and foremost East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. It also does not contradict the Arab Peace Initiative.”
Earlier this month, Al Khalifa defended Israel’s operation to expose and destroy Hezbollah’s cross-border tunnels. Bahrain and Israel have no formal diplomatic relations, but the Shiite-majority country shares with Israel concerns over Iran’s growing influence in the region and oppose Tehran’s military expansionism in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
In May, Bahrain officially supported Israel’s right to defend itself against Iranian aggression.
[Photo: U.S. Department of State / Flickr ]