Julie Bishop criticises Israel’s decision to take over more West Bank land’ (Guardian)

Daniel Hurst, ‘Julie Bishop criticises Israel’s decision to take over more West Bank land‘, 10 September 2014, Guardian.com

“Australian foreign minister joins UK and US in opposition, saying the move is ‘unhelpful so soon after the Gaza conflict’

Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, has accused Israel of undermining prospects for a two-state solution by claiming about 400 hectares of West Bank land south of Bethlehem.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 11.49.37 pmAustralia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop (Source of photo: The New Daily.com 15 July 2014)

The Australian government routinely expresses its strong support for Israel, but Bishop said the land announcement was “unhelpful so soon after the Gaza conflict”.

The US and UK had already expressed their concerns at Israel’s decisionto designate 400 hectares (1,000 acres) near Bethlehem as state land, a move that cleared the way for further settlement construction.

Bishop said she had conveyed her concerns to Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, in a “warm and constructive” telephone call on Monday.

“I took the opportunity to inform foreign minister Lieberman that the Australian government is deeply concerned by reports that Israel has declared 1,000 acres of West Bank land south of Bethlehem as state land,” she said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

“The expropriation undermines prospects for a negotiated two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian state existing side-by-side in peace and security within internationally recognised borders – a goal to which Australia remains committed.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 11.54.46 pm

Shrinking Bethlehem 2014 (Source)

“Australia calls on Israel to reconsider the decision. The announcement is unhelpful so soon after the Gaza conflict. The priority for all parties must now be on working through the terms laid out in the ceasefire agreement.”

Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, said last week she was “disturbed” by the reported land claim and called on the Israeli government to “offer an immediate explanation”.

“Unilateral action, by any party, only undermines the peace process and the prospect of successfully negotiating a two-state solution,” Plibersek said last week.

The UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, was particularly forthright in his criticism last week, describing Israeli settlements as “illegal under international law” and “an obstacle to peace”.

In June, Bishop restated Australia’s support for a two-state solution amid efforts to defuse a row over the government’s description of “disputed” territory.

Arab nations raised serious concerns after the attorney general, George Brandis, told a Senate committee he would not use the description “occupied East Jerusalem”. The prime minister, Tony Abbott, said it was a “terminological clarification” and did not reflect any change to Australia’s long-standing support for a two-state solution.”

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West Bank Statement

On 8 September Foreign Minister Liberman and I had a warm and constructive telephone conversation regarding his possible visit to Australia, as well as discussing a range of other issues of mutual interest. Minister Liberman expressed a strong desire to visit Australia, and I look forward to welcoming him at the earliest opportunity.

I took the opportunity to inform Foreign Minister Liberman that the Australian Government is deeply concerned by reports that Israel has declared 1000 acres of West Bank land south of Bethlehem as state land.

The expropriation undermines prospects for a negotiated two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian state existing side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognised borders – a goal to which Australia remains committed.

Australia calls on Israel to reconsider the decision. The announcement is unhelpful so soon after the Gaza conflict. The priority for all parties must now be on working through the terms laid out in the ceasefire agreement.

Further reading:

Friends of Bethlehem, ‘Israel annexes Bethlehem land‘, 2 September 2014.

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