Australia Changes Stance on Palestinian Territories, Calls Israeli Settlements Illegal

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The Australian government has announced that it will resume using the term “Occupied Palestinian Territories” to describe the areas under Israeli control since 1967, reversing the position of the previous Coalition government.

The Australian foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, told Labor MPs and senators on Tuesday that the government would also strengthen its objections to Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, affirming that “they are illegal under international law and a significant obstacle to peace”.

The move comes ahead of next week’s Labor party national conference in Brisbane, where some delegates are expected to push for a stronger position and a commitment to recognize Palestinian statehood.

The government’s decision is in line with UN security council resolution 2334, which condemned the Israeli settlements as a “flagrant violation under international law” and called for an end to the occupation.

The previous Coalition government had avoided using the term “occupied” or “occupation” since 2014, when the then attorney general, George Brandis, said it would not be appropriate to use such “judgmental language” in areas of negotiation.

The Coalition government had also faced criticism for its controversial grants program, the Safer Communities Fund, which was found by the auditor general in 2022 to have favored Coalition and marginal electorates and funded some ineligible projects.

Some Indigenous community safety programs, including lighting and CCTV upgrades, were overlooked for funding, despite ranking highly on the merit list and scoring by the home affairs department.

The government’s policy shift on the Palestinian territories has been welcomed by some human rights groups and advocates, who have long called for Australia to take a more principled stance on the issue.

However, it has also drawn criticism from some pro-Israel groups and politicians, who have accused the government of undermining Israel’s security and sovereignty.

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