The Australian government is set to reintroduce on Tuesday, August 8, 2023, the phrase “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” pledging to heighten its objections to “illegitimate” Israeli settlements prior to the upcoming national conference of the Labor Party next week.
Certain delegates at the national conference in Brisbane are predicted to push for a more forceful stance from the party and for a commitment to a specific timeline for acknowledging Palestinian statehood.
While the government has not given any indication that it is prepared to go that far, it has indicated a return to using more direct language to describe the situation of occupation.
Penny Wong, the foreign affairs minister, presented this position to Labor MPs and senators at Parliament House on Tuesday. In an indication of internal concerns, this marked the second occasion in two weeks that caucus members had raised queries regarding Israel.
Later, in the Senate, Wong expressed that the Australian government was deeply worried about alarming trends that were significantly diminishing the chances for peace.
“The Australian government is reinforcing its opposition to settlements by reaffirming their illegality under international law and as a major impediment to peace,” she stated.
Wong also suggested that the government would revert to the stance of previous administrations by explicitly mentioning the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
When asked by the Coalition to define the precise boundaries, Wong clarified that the position aligned with UN Security Council resolutions. She added that this stance was consistent with “the approach taken by key partners including the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the European Union.”
“By adopting this terminology, we are clarifying that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza, which began after the 1967 war, is ongoing. This reaffirms our commitment to pursuing a two-state solution wherein Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist.”
Wong noted that the Australian government had engaged with the Israeli ambassador on this matter, underscoring its status as “a dedicated friend of Israel.”
She emphasized that the government had “rebalanced Australia’s positions in international forums while opposing any biased anti-Israel sentiment within the UN.” Wong further added that Australia would continue to condemn “all forms of terrorism and violence against civilians.”
Insiders familiar with the shift in policy revealed that ministers had largely avoided using terms like “occupied” or “occupation” since 2014, even though Australia had maintained its support for UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions that employed such language.
The hesitancy to use this phrasing originated during the early stages of the former Coalition government.
Former Attorney General George Brandis remarked during a Senate hearing in 2014 that describing East Jerusalem as “occupied” carried negative connotations that were neither fitting nor beneficial.
However, in 2018, Scott Morrison stated at the Sydney Institute that Australia was bound by UN Security Council resolutions related to the Jerusalem issue, including resolutions 478 and 2334.
The latter resolution “reaffirms that the establishment of settlements by Israel in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, is devoid of legal validity and constitutes a blatant violation of the law.”