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Australia drops recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital

October 18, 2022

The status of Jerusalem should be resolved "as part of any peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian people," Australia's foreign minister has said.

The Old City seen from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel
Australia had recognized West Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in 2018Image: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Australia's Foreign Minister Penny Wong confirmed Tuesday that Canberra has reversed its recognition of west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

"Jerusalem is a final status issue that should be resolved as part of any peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian people," Wong said in a statement.

Wong held a media briefing shortly after releasing the statement, saying that Australia was committed to a two-state solution in which "Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist, in peace and security, and within internationally recognized borders."

She said that Australia would not support an approach that undermined the prospect, adding: "Australia's Embassy has always been, and remains, in Tel Aviv."

Wong also said Canberra would always be "a steadfast friend of Israel," continuing on to say they were "the first countries to formally recognize Israel."

"We will not waver in our support of Israel and the Jewish community in Australia. We are equally unwavering in our support of the Palestinian people, including humanitarian support," she added.

Penny Wong
Penny Wong said the Albanese government was committed towards a just and enduring two-state solutionImage: Vincent Thian/AP Photo/picture alliance

Israel sharply criticizes decision, Palestinians praise move

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid denounced Australia's decision to stop recognizing west Jerusalem as his country's capital.

Lapid deemed the move a "hasty response."

"Jerusalem is the eternal and united capital of Israel and nothing will ever change that," the prime minister said in a statement published by his office.

"We can only hope that the Australian government manages other matters more seriously and professionally," he added.  Meanwhile, the Israeli foreign ministry said it had summoned the Australian envoy to lodge a formal protest.

Palestinian authorities, however, hailed the move.

"We welcome Australia's decision with regards to Jerusalem & its call for a two-state solution in accordance with international legitimacy," the Palestinian Authority's civil affairs minister, Hussein al-Sheikh, wrote on Twitter.

He praised Australia's "affirmation that the future of sovereignty over Jerusalem depends on the permanent solution based on international legitimacy."

Australia recognized West Jerusalem as capital of Israel in 2018

In 2018, the conservative coalition government led by [former Prime Minister] Scott Morrison formally recognized west Jerusalem as Israel's capital, reversing decades of policy.

Australia became the third country to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, following the US and Guatemala.

But unlike the others, Australia recognized only the western part of the contested city.

Former US President Donald Trump made no distinction between the east and west of the city when he announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel in 2017 and a plan to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Scott Morrison said at the time that the Australian Embassy would remain in Tel Aviv, though plans could change.

Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as capital of any future state, while Israel sees the entire city as its capital. East Jerusalem is home to the city's most religious sites.  

Department of Foreign Affairs drops language concerning west Jerusalem

The announcement came just hours after Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade dropped two lines on its website concerning the Morrison government's recognition of west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

The Department dropped the line that said Australia looked forward to moving its embassy to west Jerusalem after the conflict between Israel and Palestine was resolved.

After almost a decade of conservative rule, Labor's Anthony Albanese became prime minister in May 2022.

rm/rt (AFP, Reuters)