West News Wire: The Australian government has chosen to go back to referring to the region as “occupied Palestinian territories,” reiterating its position that settlements in the occupied West Bank are unlawful and a violation of international law.
Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong stated at the Parliament House on Tuesday that the Australian government is “strengthening its opposition to settlements by affirming they are illegal under international law and a significant obstacle to peace.”
“By adopting the term, we are reaffirming our commitment to pursue negotiations for a two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist and clarifying that the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza, was captured by Israel after the 1967 war and that the occupation continues.”
Since 2014, Australian officials have avoided using the words “occupied” or “occupation” when referring to the West Bank. According to the Australian Broadcast Corporation, prior to that year, the usage of these terms was inconsistent.
“The description of East Jerusalem as ‘occupied’ East Jerusalem is a term freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful,” then-attorney general George Brandis told a Senate hearing in 2014.
In a move that has never been acknowledged by the international community or international law, Israel captured and annexed the eastern sector of Jerusalem in 1967, which the Palestinians claim to be the capital of a future state.
The Australian foreign ministry reversed a 2018 position that recognised western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2022.
According to Israeli anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now, Israel’s far-right government authorised unprecedented levels of construction in illegal settlements within the occupied West Bank during its first six months in office.
Since January, Israel has approved 12,855 housing units for settlers in the occupied West Bank, according to Peace Now. It represents the largest amount the organisation has noted since it began monitoring such activities in 2012.
Also in June, Australia’s Labor Party passed a resolution calling on the country to “recognise Palestine as a state”. Next week, the party will convene for the Labor Party national conference.
According to Wong, the Australian government had engaged with the Israeli ambassador on the issue because it remained “a committed friend of Israel”.
She said the government had “rebalanced Australia’s positions in international forums while opposing anti-Israel bias in the UN”, adding that Australia would continue to condemn “all forms of terrorism and violence against civilians”.