Australia has announced that it will henceforth no longer recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing a decision taken by the government of former Prime Minister Scott Morrison sometime in 2018.
In a statement on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said; ‘Today the Government has reaffirmed Australia’s previous and longstanding position that Jerusalem is a final status issue that should be resolved as part of any peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian people’.
‘This reverses the Morrison Government’s recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.’
Wong reiterated that Australia’s embassy would remain in Tel Aviv and that Canberra was committed to a two-state solution “in which Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist, in peace and security, within internationally recognised borders”.
She added: ‘We will not support an approach that undermines this prospect.’
The status of Jerusalem is one of the biggest sticking points in attempts to reach a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israel regards the entire city, including the eastern sector it annexed after the 1967 Middle East war, as its capital while Palestinian officials, with broad international backing, want occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Morrison announced his conservative government would recognise West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital after the United States went back on decades of policy by recognising the city and moving the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.
The Australian decision was widely criticised by pro-Palestinian groups as well as by the Labor party, which was then in opposition and promised to reverse the move if it was elected.
‘I regret that Mr Morrison’s decision to play politics resulted in Australia’s shifting position,’ Wong said.
She added that the government of Anthony Albanese would recommit Australia to international efforts towards ‘a just and enduring two-state solution’.
Australia would “always be a steadfast friend of Israel”, the statement said, and that its representatives are “equally unwavering supporters of the Palestinian people”.
The potential change was first reported by the London-based Guardian newspaper on Monday after it noted that sentences referencing West Jerusalem and plans for the eventual relocation of the Australian embassy had been removed.