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AIJAC “profoundly disappointed” with new Government stance on West Bank, settlements

Aug 8, 2023 | AIJAC

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) expressed its profound disappointment at the Federal Cabinet decision to label the entirety of the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, as occupied Palestinian territories and to call the settlements illegal. AIJAC Executive Director Colin Rubenstein said, “It is incredibly counter-productive to label these areas as occupied Palestinian territories, with the Government purporting to know what the boundaries of any future two-state resolution will look like. The Palestinian Authority has long refused to genuinely engage in the peace process, instead encouraging terrorism and vilifying Israel in all available international fora and at every opportunity. For a respected democracy such as Australia to take such a one-sided position only rewards and encourages the continuation of these destructive Palestinian tactics. “This new Australian position – in contradiction of the publicly-stated positions of like-minded democracies such as the US and Canada – flies in the face of previous comments by the Foreign Minister that final status issues should only be resolved by negotiations between the parties. This was the rationale for reversing the previous government’s recognition of Israel having the same right as any other country to declare where its capital is – in this case, in west Jerusalem. “While the Jerusalem decision clearly did not actually affect final status issues, given that no one disputes west Jerusalem will remain in Israel in any two-state resolution, purporting to determine which territory is ‘Palestinian’ is very much taking a position on a final status issue. As the Government is well aware, no Palestinian state has ever existed. Israel captured the West Bank and Jerusalem from Jordan  – which illegally occupied the areas – in a defensive war. At the time any Palestinian state is established, its territory must be determined by final status negotiations, not baseless legal claims made in foreign capitals, or based on politicised and unhelpful UN votes. “The legal status of the settlements and the West Bank more generally are indeed complicated questions, with varying views from learned experts. It should not be the role of our Government to make such legal determinations. “That aside, the most concerning element of the new government policy is the idea that any Jewish presence in any part of the West Bank, where Jews have lived for thousands of years, and in east Jerusalem, where Judaism’s holiest sites are located, is illegal simply because the Jordanians ethnically cleansed the areas of Jews for 19 years. Asserting that the Western Wall and Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest sites, are ‘Palestinian territory’ is highly unacceptable. “This decision will make it extremely difficult for Australia to present itself as a credible and effective advocate for a two-state peace. The Government’s stance strains our long-standing bipartisan national policy of supporting a negotiated two-state peace and is detrimental to Australia’s national interests,” Dr Rubenstein concluded.

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