Australia reverses its decision on Israel’s capital

Australia reverses its decision on Israel’s capital
FILE PHOTO: Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong speaks during a news conference on the sidelines of the 77th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 20, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

It’s become a major point of Israel’s foreign policy for other countries to recognize West Jerusalem as its capital. But most countries see Tel Aviv as the capital. The issue is that Jerusalem is situated right outside of the West Bank and has kind of a loose status between Israel and Palestine. In 1967, Israel captured East Jerusalem along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The disputed capital is home to sites considered holy by three major worldwide religions. Palestine considers East Jerusalem to be the capital of its future state and contends that Israel is illegally occupying the area.

In 2018, the US began recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital under President Donald Trump, and Australia’s then-conservative government followed suit. Only a few countries in the world recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, including Kosovo and Guatemala.

Yesterday, Australia’s foreign minister reversed the previous administration’s decision to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, instead recognizing Tel Aviv as the capital again. Australia has said Jerusalem’s status needs to be figured out via peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Australia’s current liberal government is highlighting its support of a two-party solution to the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict. But Israel isn’t too happy, calling on the Australian ambassador to explain the shift and publicly criticizing how the policy was announced.

Key comments:

“Today the government has reaffirmed Australia’s previous and long-standing position that Jerusalem is a final status issue that should be resolved as part of any peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian people. Australia’s embassy has always been, and remains, in Tel Aviv," Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement.

“This reversal brings Australia back into the international consensus – Australia must not pre-empt the final status of Jerusalem. Israel asserts that the entire city is exclusively theirs, denying Palestinian connection to their ancient spiritual, cultural and economic capital," said Nasser Mashni, vice president of the human rights group Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, in a statement.

“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. Jerusalem is the eternal and united capital of Israel and nothing will ever change that," said Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid in a statement.