Australia joins to condemn Israel for illegal settlement in occupied Palestinian territory

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has added Australia’s voice to international condemnation over the Israeli government’s decision to build thousands of settlement units in the occupied West Bank in violation of international law. 

Key points:

  • The United States and some European nations condemned Israel for illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory
  • The Foreign Minister says Australia echoes that condemnation and has communicated that to Israel
  • The government has also raised the case of a World Vision employee arrested by Israeli authorities

Earlier this week the governments of Germany, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and United States issued a joint statement denouncing Israel’s plan to push ahead with construction of 10,000 settlement units and begin a process to authorise nine settler outposts in the occupied Palestinian territory. 

Senator Wong told senate estimates the move is an impediment to peace.

Foreign Affairs officials confirmed Australia had conveyed its concerns to the Israeli government. 

“We do not support unilateral actions which reduce the prospects of a two-state — a just two-state solution,” Senator Wong said. 

“Settlements are, I’ve said here previously … an obstacle to peace.”

“I would like to associate Australia with the joint statement made by those members of the G7 and I understand that Australia’s views were communicated to Israeli counterparts.” 

In the joint statement issued earlier this week, European foreign ministers along with the US Secretary of State said they were “deeply troubled” by the Israeli government’s actions. 

Israel promises to promote West Bank tourism

Haim Katz says he would channel resources to promote the small tourism sector in the West Bank, but the idea is at odds with human rights groups who say it deepens Israeli control of occupied territory. 

An off-duty Israeli soldier jumps into Kfir spring.

“We strongly oppose these unilateral actions which will only serve to exacerbate tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and undermine efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution,” the statement said. 

“Israelis and Palestinians both deserve to live in peace, with equal measures of freedom, security, and prosperity.”

The United Nation’s special rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories Francesca Albanese criticised the language used by the United States and others, saying “the construction of colonies in occupied land constitutes a war crime, not a ‘unilateral measure'”.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, including the Old City and its Christian, Muslim and Jewish holy sites, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war.

It later annexed East Jerusalem in a move unrecognised by most of the international community.

The Palestinians seek the occupied West Bank and Gaza for a future independent state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Australia raises case of World Vision worker

The Australian government has also raised the case of a World Vision employee arrested by Israeli authorities in 2016.

Mohammed Al Halabi, who headed Gaza operations for World Vision, has been sentenced to 12 years in jail for allegedly siphoning off millions of dollars to Hamas.

The charity and Mr Al Halabi have staunchly denied the allegations and he’s appealing the case. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs acting deputy secretary Rod Brazier has told senate estimates that representations were made to Israel in November. 

“We have raised his case including his appeal and noted our ongoing interest in the case and also raised our hope that the appeal process be conducted expeditiously,” he said.

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