The Australian government has dropped the term “occupied” in official references to east Yerushalayim, in a significant change of policy.
Australia’s Attorney General George Brandis explained Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s position that using the word “occupied” was judgmental and does not help to advance peacemaking efforts, the Australian Associated Press reported late last week.
“The description of east Yerushalayim as ‘occupied’ … is a term freighted with pejorative implications which is neither appropriate nor useful,” Brandis said during a Senate meeting. “It should not and will not be the practice of the Australian government to describe areas of negotiation in such judgmental language.”
Brandis sparked a heated debate when he declared that no Australian government of either political party “acknowledges or accepts” the use of the word occupied.
A number of senators insisted that this was not the case, noting that Australia had voted in support of U.N. resolutions in 2011 and 2012 where such language was used to describe the Israeli residency in east Yerushalayim.
Independent senator Nick Xenophon said the decision constituted a “massive shift” in Australia’s foreign policy.
The former foreign affairs minister Bob Carr was a conspicuous critic of the Israeli presence in Yehudah and Shomron. Bishop has taken a much friendlier position toward Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed the news, saying, “The fact that this statement was said so clearly, so strongly — I would say courageously — is a refreshing chorus against hypocrisy and ignorance, ignorance not only of ancient history but also modern times. You cannot build peace on a foundation of refuted historical lies. The world has a real need to face this truth.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman lauded the Australians for not being afraid to “tell the truth regarding the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Reaction in Ramallah was not so favorable.
The Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry summoned Australia’s diplomatic representative Thomas Wilson to protest Canberra’s decision, AFP reported.
Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, the PA’s foreign minister Riyad al-Malki said he was “worried” about the remarks, demanding that Canberra “give an official clarification of its position in the next few days.”