Palestinian Official Condemns Australia's FM for Questioning Illegality of Israeli Settlements

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The Palestine Liberation Organization on Monday condemned recent remarks from Australia's foreign minister, who said Israeli settlements may not be illegal under international law.

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi urged the Australian government to clarify its official position regarding settlements and to act in accordance with international law and consensus, Palestinian media reported.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who was in Israel last week to attend the funeral of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, gave an interview to the Times of Israel, in which she cast doubt on the settlements' illegality.

When asked whether she agreed with the ''near-universal view'' that Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 lines are illegal, she replied: "I would like to see which international law has declared them illegal.

"I don't think it's helpful to prejudge the settlement issue if you're trying to get a negotiated solution," she said. "And by deeming the activity as a war crime, it's unlikely to engender a negotiated solution."

Ashrawi responded to these comments on Monday, saying "I would like to remind the Australian government that in accordance with international human rights law and international humanitarian law, all settlements are illegal."

Ashrawi added that the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Hague Regulations, among other international conventions, "explicitly state that Israel is in direct violation of international law with its illegal settlement activities."

The PLO representative said that "dangerous shifts" in Australian foreign policy "send a clear message to both the international community and to the Palestinians that Australia is more committed to supporting Israel's annexation of Palestinian land than backing any peace resolution that ends the military occupation of Palestine and calls for the creation of an independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital."

Last year, under instruction from Bishop, Australian representatives at the UN withdrew the country's support for an order to stop all Israeli settlement activities in all of the occupied territories."

Then, too, Palestinians lamented the move, saying it had not been discussed with them. "It is very regrettable," Izzat Abdulhadi, head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia, told the Sydney Morning Herald at the time. "There was no transparency in their approach."

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, recipient of sharp letter from Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.Credit: AP

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