The Palestinian Authority (PA) on Saturday threatened to ask Arab and Muslim-majority countries to re-evaluate relations with Australia in protest of Canberra’s dropping the term "occupied" when referring to eastern Jerusalem.
According to the Ma’an news agency, in a letter to Julie Bishop, Australia's foreign minister, the PLO's chief negotiator blasted that decision and said the PA would respond by asking two regional Arab and Muslim state blocs to review their ties with Australia.
"Palestine will request that the Arab League and the Islamic Conference review the relations of the Arab and Islamic world with Australia in light of Australia's unlawful recognition of the illegal settlement regime in occupied Palestine," Saeb Erekat wrote in the June 5 letter, which was obtained by Ma'an.
He condemned Attorney-General George Brandis' pronouncement in Australia's senate this week that the use of the word "occupied" to describe eastern Jerusalem was "neither appropriate nor useful."
The remarks demonstrate that Australia "does not intend to comply with its duty under international law not to recognize Israeli sovereignty over any part of the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in 1967, including East Jerusalem," Erekat wrote in the letter, according to Ma’an.
He added, "Palestine views these developments in the gravest terms and is weighing the appropriate legal and diplomatic response."
The issue flared in Australia's Senate this week after Brandis issued a statement to clarify Canberra's stance on the question of the legality of settler homes in East Jerusalem.
"The description of areas which are the subject of negotiations in the course of the peace process by reference to historical events is unhelpful," he said Thursday.
"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."
PA officials quickly blasted the attorney general's remarks.
"Israel's illegal annexation of East Jerusalem is beyond 'pejorative' and 'inappropriate'; it is a deliberate and egregious violation, not just of international humanitarian law and consensus, but of the basic norms of responsible behavior that governs relations among civilized states," Ma’an quoted PLO official Hanan Ashrawi as having said.
"Trying to fabricate or distort the law to fit Israel's lawless behavior is shameful and dangerous," she charged.
"Brandis, whether out of ignorance or whether out of blind bias, is trying to render Australia complicit in the Israeli occupation, and is forcing it to become an advocate of international criminal behavior," said Ashrawi.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman welcomed the move by Australia, which he said was not afraid to "tell the truth regarding the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians."
Bishop’s tone with regards to Israel is far more balanced than that of her predecessor, Bob Carr, who made no secret of his opposition to the existence of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
Carr recently hit out at what he called the "pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne", claiming that this alleged lobby wielded "extraordinary influence" on Australia's policy during his time in former Prime Minister Julia Gillard's cabinet.
He said "extreme right-wing" pro-Israel lobbyists had an "unhealthy" influence on Australia's policy towards Israel and the PA.
Carr and Gillard came to political blows over her planned support for Israel during a crucial vote in the United Nations, when the PA applied for - and received - the status of a non-member observer state in the UN.
Australia's Labor Caucus ultimately forced Gillard to a compromise on her vote over the PA’s bid for statehood, and Gillard said she would have to abstain instead of voting against the bid.