Australia reinstates use of 'occupied Palestinian Territories' for West Bank
The Australian government has decided to reinstate the term "occupied Palestinian Territories" to refer to the West Bank, signalling a renewed stance on Israeli settlements in the area which are considered illegal under international law.
Australian minister of foreign affairs Penny Wong made the announcement before the parliament on Tuesday, adding that the move underscores Australia's condemnation of settlements as illegal and a major hurdle to achieving peace.
"The Australian government is strengthening its opposition to settlements by affirming they are illegal under international law and a significant obstacle to peace," Wong said in an address to parliament.
"In adopting the term we are clarifying that the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza, were occupied by Israel following the 1967 war and that the occupation continues and reaffirms our commitment to negotiate a two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist."
The adjustment in terminology, according to Wong, aligns Australia with the language used by the UK, New Zealand, and European nations, echoing legal advice and UN Security Council resolutions.
The reversal follows a statement released by Canberra last month expressing serious concern over settlement advancements and their detrimental impact on peace prospects without explicitly labelling them as illegal.
Since 2014, Australian ministers had refrained from using the terms "occupied" or "occupation" in relation to the West Bank.
"The description of East Jerusalem as ‘occupied’ East Jerusalem is a term freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful," then-attorney general George Brandis told a Senate hearing in 2014.
In 1967, Israel occupied and annexed the eastern part of the city of Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as the capital of a future state, in a move that has never been recognised by the international community or international law.
In 2022, the Australian foreign ministry overturned a policy from 2018 which acknowledged western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
In June, Israel's far-right administration sanctioned unprecedented levels of construction in illegal settlements within the occupied West Bank in its first six months of power, Israeli anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now said.
Wong is a member of the Labor Party, which in June passed a resolution for recognising Palestine as a state.