by: Kate Norman
Wednesday, 19 October 2022 | Australia angered Israeli and Jewish leadership yesterday when it backtracked on the previous administration’s recognition of western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The Israeli foreign ministry reportedly summoned Australia’s ambassador for a dressing down over the matter.
Canberra “reaffirmed Australia’s previous and longstanding position that Jerusalem is a final status issue that should be resolved as a part of any peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian people,” Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement released by her office.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid lambasted the decision in a statement released by his office.
“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,” the prime minister added.
Former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison officially recognized western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2018, although the country did not move its embassy there from Tel Aviv. The new administration came in May 2022 under Labor party leader Anthony Albanese, a critic of Israel and supporter of an independent Palestinian state. The party had campaigned on reversing conservative Morrison’s acknowledgement of Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital.
“Australia’s embassy has always been, and remains, in Tel Aviv,” Wong asserted in yesterday’s statement.
However, the day before her official statement revoking Australia’s recognition of Israel’s capital, Wong had declared that the new government would not backtrack on its predecessor’s policy.
Nonetheless, hours later, the foreign secretary declared: “I regret that Mr. Morrison’s decision to play politics resulted in Australia’s shifting position, and the distress these shifts have caused to many people in the Australian community who care deeply about this issue.”
The Australian Foreign Affairs department deleted text from its website that had described “western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” and that the country “looks forward to moving its embassy to western Jerusalem when practical, in support of, and after the final status determination of, a two-state solution,” British newspaper The Guardian reported on Monday.
The text was removed after The Guardian asked the Australian Foreign Affairs department about its stance on the status of Jerusalem, the paper reported.
Moshe Lion, the Jerusalem mayor, issued a statement expressing his disappointment.
“A united Jerusalem has been and will continue to be the capital of Israel forever,” the mayor said. “Statements of this type do not further anything and do not contribute at all.”
Wong, however, declared Australia’s continuing friendship with the Jewish state.
“Australia will always be a steadfast friend of Israel,” she stated. “We were among the first countries to formally recognize Israel under Labor Prime Minister Ben Chifley. This government will not waver in its support of Israel and the Jewish community in Australia.”
The Jewish community in Australia, however, was not pleased by the decision.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry said the decision was “clearly media driven” and that “the status of Jerusalem is an important foreign policy issue and it is demeaning for Australia to have its international position changed in such a shoddy manner…”
The president of the Zionist Federation of Australia added that the government’s decision to backtrack on its recognition of western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “is deeply disappointing and counterproductive to achieving the government’s objective of a two-state solution. Every other sovereign country is allowed to determine the location of its capital. Israel should be treated no differently…”
Posted on October 19, 2022
Source: (Bridges for Peace, October 19, 2022)
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