By COLlive reporter
Australia will no longer describe east Jerusalem as “occupied” territory, the country’s attorney-general told the Senate on Thursday, signaling a significant policy shift welcomed in Israel.
“The description of east Jerusalem as ‘Occupied East Jerusalem’ is a term freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful,” Attorney-General George Brandis said.
“It should not and will not be the practice of the Australian government to describe areas of negotiations in such judgmental language,” Brandis said, following a conversation with Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop.
Welcoming the Australian Government’s decision were the Australian-Israel Jewish Affairs Committee (AIJAC), Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA) and Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA).
Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, the new President of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, applauded “this stance of courageous leadership that the Government has taken in this matter.”
“This move by the Australian Government sends a strong message that in supporting a negotiated outcome for peace in the region, it is important to work with the facts and to steer clear of distorted and inflammatory language that undermines the true nature of the matters at hand,” he said.
“As we pray for peace in the Holy Land, for peace with our neighbors in the region and a true and lasting peace for all of humanity, it is encouraging to know that here, in Australia, our Government has demonstrated a true grasp of the realities in the Middle East.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit Melbourne next week and meet his Australian counterpart, Tony Abbott.
Australia’s policy shift on the settlements began soon after the election victory in September of Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition over Kevin Rudd‘s Labor Party, the Jerusalem Post reported.
In November, the new government abstained on two anti-Israel resolutions at the UN – one to end all settlement activities, and another calling for compliance with the Geneva Convention – signaling it would no longer reflexively vote against Israel on settlement-related votes, the paper said.
Rabbi Shimon Cowen, who directs Melbourne’s Institute of Judaism and Civilization and is the son of Australia’s former governor-general, said he could not recall a government in his country that had been so fair and balanced on Israel as the current one.
He told the Jerusalem Post that Abbott’s government had resisted international pressure to brand settlements as illegal and eastern Jerusalem as occupied. “Among world leaders, Abbott has high principle and unflinching moral courage,” Cowen said.