Published: Fri, October 19, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Australia could follow United States in shifting embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

Australia could follow United States in shifting embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

After Donald Trump's move, Morrison announced on Tuesday that he was considering relocating the Australian embassy from the coastal city of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and declaring the city as the Israeli capital.

Morrison said he was persuaded to consider reversing the government's long-held position to keep the nation's embassy in Tel Aviv by Dave Sharma, a former Australian ambassador to Israel and the governing Liberal Party's candidate in a special election this weekend in the Sydney-based district of Wentworth.

Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Morrison's initiative, the response from Indonesia was less welcoming.

Australia was firm in its refusal to follow suit at the time, however, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in parliament he was now "open-minded" about doing so, while not changing Australia's policy of support for a Palestinian state.

He also said Australia remains committed to finding a two-state solution to Israel's conflict with the Palestinians.

Morrison's declaration of being "open-minded" to following the US's example in relocating its mission to the capital drew condemnation from Palestinian officials.

The potential move by Australia to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital would make the country only the third to do so, following the United States and Guatemala in May.

What is required - apart from finding leaders of goodwill on all sides - is a return to basics where compromise is struck over final status issues such as territory, refugees, security and shared sovereignty over Jerusalem.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, and Australia are due to sign a trade deal this.

She was joined in her condemnation by 13 Arab ambassadors in Australia who called the suggestion regrettable and asked Mr. Morrison to reconsider, Reuters reports.

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West Jerusalem, where the Knesset and the other main organs of the Israeli government are located, has been sovereign Israeli territory since 1948.

Wentworth, an affluent and diverse constituency, is home to a large Jewish community.

"The Australian prime minister updated [Netanyahu] that he is weighing whether to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the Australian Embassy to Jerusalem". Both the Israelis and Palestinians claim it as their own, and its final status has always been one of the major obstacles in negotiations for a two-state solution.

"This announcement has to do with the timing of the United Nations resolution on which we need to take a position and articulate our views", Mr Sharma told reporters in Sydney.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the government questions the merits of Morrison's announcement and has conveyed its "strong concern".

Political commentator Peter Hartcher said Mr Morrison was risking Australia's relations with Indonesia, including his personal relations with Mr Joko and cooperation on counter-terrorism and border security.

Morrison "informed me that he is considering officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel & moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem".

"I have made this decision without any reference to the United States", he said.

Penny Wong, a lawmaker with opposition Labor Party, accused the prime minister of putting politics ahead of Australia's long-term national interest.

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