Australia reverses decision to recognise west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Australia reverses decision to recognise west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
Australia Singapore
Australia Singapore

The Australian government has reversed the previous administration’s recognition of west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The centre-left Labour Party government agreed to again recognise Tel Aviv as the capital and reaffirmed that Jerusalem’s status must be resolved in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said.

Australia remained committed to a two-party solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and “we will not support an approach that undermines this prospect”, Ms Wong said.

Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid expressed disappointment at Australia’s changed position.

“Jerusalem is the eternal undivided capital of Israel and nothing will change that,” Mr Lapid said in a statement.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it will summon the Australian ambassador over the issue.

Former conservative PM Scott Morrison formally recognised west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2018, although the Australian embassy remained in Tel Aviv.

The change followed former president Donald Trump’s decision to shift the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

President Joe Biden has kept the embassy in Jerusalem as the US steps back from its once-intense mediation between the Israelis and Palestinians, who have not held substantive peace talks in more than a decade.

Ms Wong described Mr Morrison’s move as out of step internationally and a “cynical play” to win a by-election in a Sydney locale with a large Jewish population.

Mr Morrison’s Liberal Party ran Jewish candidate Dave Sharma who was defeated in the by-election but won the seat in the next general election.

His government was voted out of office in May after nine years in power.

Nasser Mashni, vice president of the human rights group Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, thanked the government for “differentiating itself from the dangerous political posturing of the previous government”.

“This reversal brings Australia back into the international consensus — Australia must not pre-empt the final status of Jerusalem,” Mr Mashni said in a statement.

“Israel asserts that the entire city is exclusively theirs, denying Palestinian connection to their ancient spiritual, cultural and economic capital,” Mr Mashni added.

Mr Morrison, who remains an opposition lawmaker, said the government’s decision was disappointing.

The decision “represents a further diminution in Australia’s support for the state of Israel by the Labour government from the high water mark established by the Morrison government,” his office said.

But opposition leader Peter Dutton left the door open to the conservatives abandoning Mr Morrison’s policy.

“We’ll make an announcement about our policy in the run-up to the next election,” Mr Dutton told reporters. The next election is due in 2025 .

Opposition foreign affairs spokesperson Simon Birmingham described the change as a “completely unnecessary decision” that followed a “shambolic process”.

In the 1967 Middle East war, Israel captured east Jerusalem, home to holy sites of three faiths, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. The status of Jerusalem remains one of the thorniest issues in the decades-long conflict and has precipitated numerous rounds of violence.

Only a handful of countries, including Kosovo and Guatemala, have joined the US in recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.