Published: Fri, October 19, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

PM: Australia considering moving embassy to Jerusalem

PM: Australia considering moving embassy to Jerusalem

Netanyahu spoke on the phone on Monday with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who informed the Israeli leader that he was "weighing officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem", according to a readout of the call from Israel's Prime Minister's Office.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has attempted to persuade other countries to move their embassies to Jerusalem.

Mr Sharma said the United States should "make clear that Trump's statement is not an endorsement of Israel's claim of sovereignty over the entire city of Jerusalem, and that it expects a Palestinian capital in the predominantly Arab neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem will emerge during final status negotiations".

He said he was "open-minded" to proposals to recognize Jerusalem and move Australia's embassy, which he described as "sensible" and "persuasive", though if followed through would spell a sharp break from the policy of successive Australian governments for decades.

However, the future of the agreement has had doubt cast over it because of Mr Morrison's comments saying that he would consider moving the Australian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The landmark free trade agreement was supposed to be signed before the end of the year, but a senior Indonesian government source told ABC News that the pact was now in doubt over Mr Morrison's position.

Within hours, the speech had also drawn ire from two of Australia's key regional neighbours - Indonesia and Malaysia, both Muslim-majority countries.

"I think we have to challenge that", Morrison said.

The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He denied that his comments on Tuesday were aimed at Wentworth's large Jewish community. Following Donald Trump's move, Guatemala and Paraguay also moved their embassies, but the latter reversed the relocation three months later.

It is predictable that the Prime Minister will be unjustly criticised for developing foreign policy to satisfy the voters of Wentworth for this week's by-election.

Israel's victory in the Six-Day War gave it control of Arab East Jerusalem, including the Old City.

"We do not understand how moving the embassy and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will preserve the peace process, while a vote at the General Assembly today rejecting the authority of the delegation of the State of Palestine only during its presidency of the group of 77 China will undermine those opportunities?"

The opposition centre-left Labor Party denounced Morrison's announcement.

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

Morrison was adamant that "no decision has been made", but the idea has angered Arab and Muslim states as well.

Wentworth frontrunner Dave Sharma insists it's simply a coincidence the federal government announced it could move the Australian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem just days out from a crucial by-election in a seat with thousands of Jewish voters.

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.

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