Australia on Tuesday backtracked a decision of the previous government to recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of the Israeli occupation, saying the status of the city should be resolved through peace negotiations between Israelis and the Palestinians.
However, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said Australia “will always be a steadfast friend of Israel” and was committed to a two-state solution in which the Israeli occupation and Palestine coexist in peace within internationally recognized borders.
The government “recommits Australia to international efforts in the responsible pursuit of progress towards a just and enduring two-state solution,” she said in a statement.
Previous Prime Minister Scott Morrison had reversed decades of Australian Middle East policy in December 2018 by saying Australia recognized West Jerusalem as the capital of the Israeli occupation but would not move its embassy there immediately.
Former United States President Donald Trump had recognized Jerusalem as the capital a year earlier.
Wong told reporters Morrison’s 2018 decision “put Australia out of step with the majority of the international community” and was met with concern by Muslim-majority neighbor Indonesia.
“I regret that Mr. Morrison’s decision to play politics resulted in Australia’s shifting position, and the distress these shifts have caused to many people in the Australian community who care deeply about this issue,” she said.
Morrison had flagged moving the embassy from Tel Aviv in 2018 just days before a by-election in a Sydney electorate with a strong Jewish representation, which his Liberal party nonetheless lost.
Wong said the decision was made by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s Cabinet on Tuesday.