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

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

Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the previous Australian government had taken decision 'to play politics, and it was no more than that'

Australia's foreign minister Penny Wong (Photo: Reuters)
Australia's foreign minister Penny Wong (Photo: Reuters)

Australia has reversed the previous government’s recognition of west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and said the issue should be resolved as part of peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

“Australia is committed to a two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist, in peace and security, within internationally recognised borders,” Foreign Minister Penny Wong said during a media briefing.

“We will not support an approach that undermines this prospect.”

The decision was swiftly criticised by Israel’s prime minister Yair Lapid.

“In light of the way in which this decision was made in Australia, as a hasty response to an incorrect report in the media, we can only hope that the Australian government manages other matters more seriously and professionally,” Lapid said.

“Jerusalem is the eternal and united capital of Israel and nothing will ever change that.”

But it was welcomed by Palestinians with Hamas – which runs the Gaza Strip – calling it a “step in the right direction”.

Tuesday’s decision reversed a move by Australia’s previous government led by the conservative Liberal party.

In 2018 Scott Morrison, the prime minister of the time, formally recognised west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reversing decades of Middle East policy.

Morrison had flagged moving the embassy from Tel Aviv in 2018 just days before a by-election in a Sydney electorate with a strong Jewish representation, which his Liberal party nonetheless lost.

It drew criticism from Muslim-majority neighbours such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Morrison’s Liberal-led coalition lost a national election in May.

Wong said Morrison’s move was a “decision to play politics, and it was no more than that.”

She said: “Australia will always be a steadfast friend of Israel. We were amongst the first countries to formally recognise Israel under Labor Prime Minister Ben Chifley.

“We remain, we will not waiver in our support of both Israel and the Jewish community in Australia. We are equally unwavering in our support of the Palestinian people, including the provision of humanitarian support.

“I would say that Mr Morrison’s decision to play politics, and it was no more than that, because we all know where the embassy remained, resulted in Australia shifting position.”

The status of Jerusalem, home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths, is one of the biggest obstacles to a peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians.

Israel regards all of the city as its capital, including the eastern sector which it annexed after the 1967 Middle East war, and wants all embassies based there.

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