The Australian government will no longer refer to Eastern Jerusalem as “occupied”, the Attorney General said in a statement on Thursday.
The Times of Israel reports that Attorney General George Brandis said that Foreign Minister Julie Bishop believes that using the word “occupied” is judgemental and hinders dialogue over the contested area.
Speaking to the Australian Senate, Brandis said: “The description of East Jerusalem as ‘occupied’ East Jerusalem is a term freighted with pejorative implications which is neither appropriate nor useful.
“It should not and will not be the practice of the Australian government to describe areas of negotiation in such judgmental language.”
Brandis made the statement after causing a stir in a senate hearing the previous day by saying that no Australian government of any political persuasion “acknowledges or accepts” the use of the term “occupied”. His comments came after Senator Lee Rhiannon repeatedly referred to the city as “occupied East Jerusalem”.
Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Days War, along with the West Bank and other territories. In 1980, it officially unified the city of Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, effectively annexing East Jerusalem.
Most of the international community did not recognise the move.
The decision has drawn criticism from left-wing Australian lawmakers, with independent senator Nick Xenophon noting that the statement amounts to a “massive shift” in Australian foreign policy.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has also questioned whether Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 borders are really illegal. “I would like to see which international law has declared them illegal,” she said.