Australia is all set to follow the step of the United States by relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in Israel. Critics, in a policy shift, say that this is a desperate grab for domestic political gain to win a crucial by-election due on Saturday in Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “the idea was suggested to him by a former ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, who is a candidate for the ruling conservative Liberal Party in a by-election in a Sydney electorate with a large Jewish population”.
Mr Morrison said Australia remained committed to finding a two-state solution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Morrison said: “When sensible suggestions are put forward that is consistent with your policy positioning and in this case pursuing a two-state solution, Australia should be open-minded to this and I am open-minded to this and our government is open-minded to this”.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had recently spoken to Mr Morrison and welcomed the Australian policy shift.
In a tweet, Netanyahu said, “ Mr Morrison informed me that he is considering officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel & moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem. I’m very thankful to them for this”.
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Quoting an unnamed Indonesian official, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported that Jakarta had been taken by surprise by the announcement, which could harm bilateral trade negotiations. When Mr Morrison elected as 30th Prime Minister in August this year, he made his first overseas trip to immediate neighbour Indonesia which is the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.
Mr Morrison and Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo planned to sign an agreement this year aimed at boosting trade and investment.
Mr Morrison informed the Parliament that he had briefed Mr Jokowi overnight about the announcement. “I’ve been pleased to be able to explain very clearly the nature of the announcements that I’ve made today and I’ve been very pleased with the response that I’ve received from President Joko Widodo,” Mr Morrison said.
“We’ll continue to work closely and cooperatively with our allies and with our partners all around the world on these issues,” Mr Morrison added.
President of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, George Browning accused the government of “aligning itself with the most erratic, reactionary and bullish U.S. foreign policy ever.”
In a statement, Browning said, “This is an irresponsible policy that compromises the future of millions of people in the Middle East for a handful of votes in Wentworth”.
Earlier, following US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority had strongly denounced the Trump administration’s decision. Public opinion polls have shown that the embassy move is unpopular on the Palestinian street, and has led to accusations that the Trump administration cannot be trusted as an “honest broker” in peace talks between the two sides.
Other Arab nations had also criticized Trump’s move, and the Arab League published a joint statement emphasizing that East Jerusalem should become the capital of Palestine.