Australia changes stance on Israeli capital
Australia’s new Labor government has quietly rescinded the country’s recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and has called for the final status of the city to be determined during peace negotiations.
In a recent update on its website, first reported by The Guardian, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) removed two sentences describing the country’s policy on the Israel-Palestinian issue that had previously been adopted by former Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government.
The deleted section reads: “Consistent with this longstanding policy, in December 2018, Australia recognised West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of the Israeli government.”
It added that Australia “looks forward to moving its embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of, and after the final status determination of, a two-state solution.”
Nevertheless, the new Australian government, led by Labor PM Anthony Albanese, has retained its position that it is “committed to a two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state co-exist, in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong had said in 2018 that the Labor Party “does not support unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” Wong said at the time that Morrison’s announcement that Australia’s embassy would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was a decision of “all risk and no gain.”
A DFAT spokesperson told Guardian Australia that the government in Canberra “continues to consider the final status of Jerusalem as a matter to be resolved as part of any peace negotiations” between Israel and Palestine.
Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their national capitals. Under international law, East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip have been considered occupied Palestinian territory since 1967 while the capital of Israel is consider to be Tel Aviv.
In 2017, then-US President Donald Trump officially declared that Washington would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered the State Department to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Trump’s move at the time was only supported by a handful of other nations, including Australia, Guatemala, Czech Republic, Honduras, Paraguay, and Romania. Others, including France, Germany, and the UK, condemned the move, saying it risked escalating tensions in the region and undermining efforts to reach a peace deal.