The Australian government has reversed its predecessor’s decision to recognize West Jerusalem as its capital Israelprompting condemnation from the Israeli government.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong reaffirmed Canberra’s “prior and longstanding position” on Israel at a conference on Tuesday, stressing the New Labor government’s unwavering support for Israel and the Palestinian people.
“Australia is committed to a two-state solution where Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist in peace and security within internationally recognized borders,” Wong said. “We will not support an approach that undermines this opportunity.”
The previous government, led by former Coalition Prime Minister Scott Morrison, recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2018, following an announcement by former US President Donald Trump.
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Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Australia’s decision to return to its previous position on Tuesday was an “urgent response to false reporting in the media”.
“In light of the way this decision was made in Australia, as a hasty response to a false report in the media, we hope the Australian government will manage other matters more seriously and professionally,” Lapid said in a statement. Without elaborating on “false reporting”.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned the Australian ambassador to Israel.
Prior to Trump’s announcement, successive US presidents have resisted making any declaration on the issue until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved. Trump’s decision drew condemnation from world leaders and sent shock waves across the Muslim world. Both Israelis and Palestinians claim the holy city as their capital.
Morrison’s decision to follow Trump’s lead Sparking further outrage, Wong on Tuesday apologized for any distress.
“I regret that Mr Morrison’s decision to play politics has changed Australia’s position, and the distress these changes have caused to many in the Australian community who care deeply about this issue,” Wong said.
The division of Jerusalem into East and West dates back to the 1949 armistice agreement that ended hostilities between Israel and the Arab powers. He divided the city.
West Jerusalem was in Israeli hands and East Jerusalem was under Jordanian control. The 1947 United Nations plan to divide Palestine into two, creating a Jewish state and an Arab state, considered Jerusalem an internationally operating “corpus partition” with the exception of two states.
Israel captured East Jerusalem in the Six Day War in 1967. It expanded the city’s municipal boundaries and declared them all the unified capital of Israel.
Until Trump’s announcement, the international community had largely not formally recognized Israel’s position, saying instead that only a negotiated agreement between the two sides could determine the city’s final status.
The city has deep shrines for Jews, Muslims and Christians. The issue has been a thorny one since negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians have left the issue of Jerusalem to the final phase of any peace deal.
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