Australia and Israel have become locked in a tense diplomatic dispute after the Albanese government decided to no longer recognise West Jerusalem as the capital, drawing condemnation from the Israeli prime minister. Australia’s ambassador to Israel was summoned to the country’s foreign ministry to explain the move, which Jewish bodies labelled a “gratuitous insult” to a strategic and economic partner.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid expressed surprise at the government’s “hasty” decision-making, which coincided with the Jewish holy day of Simchat Torah and came only hours after the government denied Australia’s position on West Jerusalem had changed. “Jerusalem is the eternal and united capital of Israel and nothing will ever change that,” Lapid said.
However, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Labor was fulfilling a longstanding commitment to unwind a “cynical” 2018 decision by the Morrison government, which she said was a desperate attempt to court Jewish voters in the 2018 Wentworth byelection. The move won praise from Palestinian advocates who urged the government to go further and recognise Palestinian statehood. Wong said: “Australia is committed to a two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist.”
Read Matthew Knott’s report
Analysis: The messy way the government handled this made a delicate task more damaging than it needed to be.