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No change on Jerusalem recognition, says Penny Wong

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Foreign Minister Penny Wong has denied Labor has dropped recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel instead of Tel Aviv after the DFAT website deleted sentences relating to the previous Coalition government’s policy.

Scott Morrison formally recognised West Jerusalem in ­December 2018, despite holding off relocation of the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv.

Labor made clear at the time it did not support recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state after the former prime minister made Australia one of the few countries to do so.

It followed a decision by then-US president Donald Trump to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Despite Labor’s opposition to the move, the website for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital until a few days ago, when it quietly deleted relevant sentences regarding that policy. The sentences said: “Consistent with this longstanding policy, in December 2018 Australia recognised West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of the Israeli government.

“Australia looks forward to moving its embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of and after the final status determination of, a two-state solution.”

A spokeswoman for Senator Wong said the government had not made any decision on changing official recognition of Israel’s capital.

“The former government made the decision to recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” the Foreign Minister said.

“No decision to change that has been made by the ­government.”

A spokesman for Mr Morrison said the shift on the capital of Israel was “dis­appointing and represents a further diminution in Australia’s support for the state of Israel by the Labor government from the high water mark ­established by the Morrison ­government”.

The 2021 Australian Labor Party national platform said Labor supported “an enduring and just two-state solution to the ­Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, but also explicitly called on the Labor government to “recognise Palestine as a state”.

Israel has come under fire in recent months from the international community for its “illegal settlements”, which refers to neighbourhoods being built in contested territories, and concerns around the treatment of ­Palestinians. Australia has raised human rights concerns.

Israel and Jewish organisations in Australia have raised issue with the language surrounding the conflict, which they warn is becoming increasingly anti-Semitic.

DFAT makes note on its website that Australia is “strongly ­opposed to unfair targeting of ­Israel in the UN and other multilateral institutions … however, we make clear our concerns about Israeli actions that undermine the prospects of a two-state solution and continue to urge Israel and other actors to respect international law.”

Australia was the first country to vote in favour of the 1947 UN partition resolution, which ultimately led to the creation of Israel as a nation state.

Canberra established diplomatic relations with Israel two years later and presided over the vote admitting Israel to the UN.

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Article source: The Australian | Sarah Ison | October 18, 2022

2023-10-24 01:28:30.000000

Labor reverses decision to recognise West Jerusalem as Israel capital

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Labor reverses decision to recognise West Jerusalem as Israel capital

ABC, 18/10/2022

By foreign affairs reporter Stephen Dziedzic

Posted 18h ago18 hours ago, updated 12h ago12 hours ago

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Duration: 1 minute 15 seconds1m 15s

Israel’s government has criticised Australia’s decision to withdraw recognition of West Jerusalem as the country’s capital, summoning Australia’s ambassador to lodge a complaint and suggesting the federal government’s announcement was rushed and unprofessional.

Key points:

  • Labor had vowed, if elected, to reverse recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital
  • The decision to recognise West Jerusalem was made by Scott Morrison in 2018
  • Foreign Minister Penny Wong says the 2018 decision was “cynical” and “political”

Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on Tuesday morning that the government would reverse the former Coalition government’s decision to recognise West Jerusalem, calling it a “cynical” ploy to win electoral support.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had already deleted references to the Morrison Government’s decision online, although Cabinet only made a formal decision on the issue on Tuesday morning.

Several media outlets reported on the change on Monday night, forcing the federal government to clarify that no decision had yet been made.

The Prime Minister of Israel, Yair Lapid, criticised the move in a statement issued on Tuesday.

“In light of the way in which this decision was made, 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,” he said.

“Jerusalem is the eternal and united capital of Israel and nothing will ever change that.

Senator Wong, speaking after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, said Australia remained a steadfast friend of Israel, and an unwavering supporter of the Palestinian people.

“Today, the government has reaffirmed Australia’s previous and long-standing position that Jerusalem is a final status issue, a final status issue that should be resolved as part of any peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian people,” she said.

“Australia’s embassy has always been, and remains, in Tel Aviv.”

In late 2018, the then-Morrison government moved to recognise West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, following the former Trump Administration’s decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem.

Senator Wong accused Scott Morrison of playing politics over the decision.

“I think we all know when we saw some of it publicly that the 2018 decision put Australia out of step with the majority of the international community,” she said.

“It was received with great concern by members of the international community.

“You know what this was? This was a cynical, unsuccessful, play to win the seat of Wentworth and a by-election.”

Mr Morrison denied at the time that the decision was aimed at winning over Jewish voters in the seat, which the government ultimately lost to independent Kerryn Phelps.

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Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has left the door open to what city Australia should recognise as the capital of Israel.

“We took a policy to the last election. We will make an announcement about our policy in the run-up to the next election,” he said.

“Penny Wong is looking for a distraction away from what, I think, increasingly is looking like a budget that doesn’t have a plan that they promised for cost-of-living pressures that families are facing now.”

Shadow Attorney-General Julian Leeser described the decision as “shambolic”.

“In the Jewish press before the election, Mark Dreyfus and Josh Burns said there was no difference between the Morrison government’s policy on Israel and the Albanese opposition,” he said.

“This shows that this is just not true. West Jerusalem has been a part of Israel since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

“The parliament is there, the supreme court is there, the PM lives there, the president lives there. It looks like the capital of Israel to me, I don’t know what it is the Labor party can’t see”.

Labor had long vowed to reverse the move if elected to office and, in recent days, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), without fanfare, deleted online references to the decision.

“The updating of the website occurred ahead of government processes. That happens sometimes,” Senator Wong said.

“I am not going to blame anybody for that. That happens. That is why I am also here, today, making sure we are clear about our position and I want to make sure that the website did reflect the position I articulated.”

Indonesia’s government — which criticised the Morrison government’s decision in 2018 — issued a statement through its foreign ministry praising the move.

“Indonesia welcomes the decision by Australia under PM Albanese to reverse the recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” it said.

“This policy would hopefully contribute positively to Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations.

“Indonesia appreciates Australia’s reaffirmation of its commitment to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict based on a two-state solution, within internationally recognised borders.”

But the Director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council Dr Colin Rubenstein slammed the move, saying it was “frankly bizarre” to “withdraw recognition of Israel’s right to choose its own capital on its own sovereign territory.”

“This decision by the Government is not only deeply disappointing, but appears a pointless own goal, undermining the Government’s self-declared policy of seeking to encourage a negotiated two-state Israeli-Palestinian peace,” he said.

“The reversal also risks denting Australia’s credibility with some of our closest allies.”

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Article source: ABC (Australian), 18/10/2022

2023-10-24 01:28:30.000000

Libs to make Jerusalem election issue

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The federal coalition will take the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to the next election.

The Labor government reversed a 2018 decision by then prime minister Scott Morrison to recognise West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move Australia’s embassy.

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said the decision broke from decades of bipartisanship to have the issue resolved by Israel and Palestine.

Both Israel and Palestine claim Jerusalem as their capital.

She accused Mr Morrison of using the issue as a political football to win votes.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham told AAP the coalition’s position had not changed.

“It remains the coalition’s view that West Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” he said.

“It functions as the capital for the Israeli government in all purposes.

“So long as it remains Israel’s choice, their functional capital going forward, that will be the view we take into the next election and into government if we are re-elected.”

But he maintained the final boundaries for Israel and Palestine and the status of East Jerusalem were to be negotiated by the two parties.

The coalition expressed anger at the reversal and how it had been handled by the government, with it being announced on a Jewish holiday and catching the Israeli government off guard.

But when asked why West Jerusalem should be Israel’s recognised capital in light of the reversal, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said: “We took a policy to the last election, we will make an announcement about our policy in the run-up to the next election.”

Senator Birmingham said a Liberal-National government would handle the matter more sensitively and consult with all parties if elected.

by Dominic Giannini

Australian Associated Press

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Article source: Canberra Times

2023-10-24 01:28:30.000000

Israel set to summon Aust Ambassador over recognition of nation’s capital

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Israel set to summon Aust Ambassador over recognition of nation’s capital

(Herald-Sun, 19/10/2022)


Israel will summon Australia’s Ambassador to explain the federal government’s decision to reverse its recognition of West Jerusalem as the country’s capital.

Israel’s embassy in Canberra was blindsided by the move, which prompted an angry response from Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who called into question Australia’s treatment of a close ally.

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Article source: Herald-Sun, 19/10/2022

2023-10-24 01:28:30.000000

Jewish groups blindsided by Labor’s reversal of recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

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Jewish groups blindsided by Labor’s reversal of recognition of West Jerusalem as Israeli capital

Prominent Jewish community leaders in Australia say Albanese government’s withdrawal of recognition ‘a gratuitous insult’ – but criticism is not universal (The Guardian, 19/10/2022)

Several Jewish community leaders say they were blindsided by the Albanese government’s decision to reverse recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, describing the handling of the issue as “shoddy” and “a gratuitous insult”.

A Labor parliamentarian has also privately said the government “mishandled” the sensitive issue and should not be “making foreign policy on the fly” after Israel’s foreign ministry summoned the Australian ambassador to demand an explanation.

Jewish community representatives were surprised by a Guardian Australia report on Monday revealing the Morrison government-era decision was being reversed, and contacted the government seeking clarity.

It is understood a number of community representatives were informed on Monday that no decision had been made, only to be notified the following morning of the outcome of Tuesday’s cabinet meeting shortly before the public announcement.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) said it was “extremely disappointed” the government had made the decision in an “opaque manner” without public consultation or opportunity for public debate.

The group said stakeholders had “simply been presented with a fait accompli” and noted “with regret that this decision was communicated to us on the Jewish holyday of Simchat Torah, when we were precluded from making any public response”.

“There is a bitter irony in the fact that the government made its decision in the way that it did on a day when Jews celebrate receiving the Torah, the ethical basis of western civilisation,” it said.

The president of the ECAJ, Jillian Segal, together with co-chief executives Peter Wertheim and Alex Ryvchin, issued the scathing statement after sunset on Tuesday at the conclusion of the holy period.

They said the timing of the cabinet decision was “clearly media-driven” and said it was “demeaning for Australia to have its international position changed in such a shoddy manner”.

“Aside from being poor policy, the withdrawal of Australia’s recognition that Israel’s capital is in Jerusalem is a gratuitous insult to a key economic and strategic ally, with no countervailing benefit for Australians,” Segal, Wertheim and Ryvchin said.

“This is no way to treat an ally whose intelligence-sharing with Australia has prevented at least one terrorist attack against Australians that we know of.”

The executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (Aijac), Colin Rubenstein, also questioned the “odd” timing. He said the “deeply disappointing” decision appeared to be “a pointless own goal”.

But the announcement by the foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, was not greeted with universal criticism.

The New Israel Fund Australia, which promotes a vision of Israel as both the Jewish homeland and a democracy for all its citizens, said the previous policy had placed Australia “firmly in the global minority”.

The group’s executive director, Liam Getreu, said the change suggested the Australian government would be “a balanced partner in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by forging policies which are more in line with our likeminded allies and partners around the world and support the advancement of a peaceful resolution”.

Antony Loewenstein, a journalist who co-founded Independent Australian Jewish Voices and lived in East Jerusalem between 2016 and 2020, welcomed Wong’s move to clarify Australia’s position.

“The problem really is this doesn’t change anything. It’s a continuation of a status quo that for decades has allowed Israel to not just expand its occupation but to make it permanent,” he said.

“We’re at a stage now where the two-state solution is a zombie phrase that people keep repeating but is out of step with the reality on the ground. This is a good minor change of language but the reality is that nothing is changing other than the occupation getting deeper.”

Israel’s prime minister, Yair Lapid, had earlier criticised the Australian government for what he called a “hasty” foreign policy shift.

Indonesia, however, welcomed the Albanese government’s decision, saying it hoped the new policy would “contribute positively to Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations”.

“Indonesia appreciates Australia’s reaffirmation of its commitment to support peaceful resolution to the conflict based on two-state solution, within internationally recognised borders,” the country’s foreign affairs ministry said.

A federal Labor parliamentarian from the right faction criticised the government’s handling of the issue.

“It’s really been mishandled,” said the parliamentarian, who asked for anonymity to discuss the topic openly. “I still can’t believe it’s happened.”

While the parliamentarian agreed with the claim that the former prime minister Scott Morrison had politicised the issue in the lead-up to the Wentworth byelection in 2018, they said the new government should have engaged in adequate consultation to maintain trust with the community.

Others within the government pointed to Morrison’s handling of the announcement of his own review in 2018, with the then foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, informed of the plans in a phone call only a day before media were briefed.

Wong declined to say whether the government had received any representations from Israel or community groups against proceeding with the change, arguing it would not be reasonable “to disclose all of the interactions I and my office might have with stakeholders”.

“This government will not waver in its support of Israel and the Jewish community in Australia,” she said.

Wong said the decision was made at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning. She said it was in line with her public comments in December 2018 that Labor would unwind Morrison’s stance.

Wong said the Morrison government’s decision to recognise West Jerusalem as the capital – rather than leaving it as a matter to be resolved in peace negotiations – “put Australia out of step with the majority of the international community”.

“This was a cynical play, unsuccessful, to win the seat of Wentworth in a byelection. And what the people saw was the prime minister of the day trying to play foreign policy in order to win votes in a seat.”

Like most countries, Australia has continued to maintain an embassy in Tel Aviv rather than Jerusalem.

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Article source: The Guardian, 18/10/2022

2023-10-24 01:28:30.000000