Australia reverses recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital

SYDNEY – Australia on Tuesday reversed a decision of the previous government to recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, saying the status of the city should be resolved through peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian people.

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said Australia “will always be a steadfast friend of Israel” and was committed to a two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist in peace within internationally recognised borders.

The government “recommits Australia to international efforts in the responsible pursuit of progress towards a just and enduring two-state solution,” she said in a statement.

The previous Prime Minister Scott Morrison had reversed decades of Middle East policy in December 2018 by following former US President Donald Trump’s administration in naming West Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

“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,” Ms Wong said.

Mr 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.

“You know what this was? This was a cynical play, unsuccessful, to win the seat of Wentworth and a by-election,” Ms Wong said, adding that “Australia’s embassy has always been, and remains, in Tel Aviv”.

The 2018 decision also caused consternation in neighbouring Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country – temporarily derailing a free trade deal.

Jerusalem is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians.

Most foreign nations avoid locating embassies in the city for fear of prejudging peace talks on the city’s final status. REUTERS, AFP

The Straits Times

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