Palestinian Authority Condemns Australia for Declaring East Jerusalem Not Occupied

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Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem are seen by tourists.Credit: Reuters

The Palestinian Authority on Thursday condemned Australia's policy shift to stop referring to East Jerusalem as "occupied" by Israel, and warned that it is currently weighing its response.

In a letter sent to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, which was obtained by Haaretz, Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians view this decision "in the gravest terms," and accused Australia of not recognizing the illegality of Israel's settlements policy.

A statement released by Australia's attorney general on Wednesday revealed that the country will no longer refer to East Jerusalem as an occupied territory, a dramatic shift in Australian policy on Israel since 1967.

''The description of East Jerusalem as 'Occupied East Jerusalem' is a term freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful,'' the statement said, adding that Australia must not use such "judgmental language."

In his letter, Erekat said the term "occupation" is not judgmental, but a recognition of the "legal fact" that Israel occupies the Palestinian territories, as affirmed by a UN resolution.

Erekat said Australia's refusal to use the term "occupation" with regards to East Jerusalem is the latest in a pattern of behavior which shows Australia "has no interest in complying with its duty under international law not to recognize the illegal Israeli settlement regime in Palestinian territory."

As part of this pattern, Erekat noted a visit to East Jerusalem by Australia's ambassador to Israel, where he met with Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel.

"This pattern of behavior also places Australia badly out of step with the international consensus that the 1967 border must be reinforced as the basis for negotiations towards a two-state solution," the letter said.

Erekat concluded by warning Australia that the Palestinians will turn to the Arab League and the Islamic Conference to review their relations with Australia in light of this pattern.

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