Published: Tue, October 16, 2018

Australia 'open-minded' to moving Israeli embassy to Jerusalem - PM

Australia 'open-minded' to moving Israeli embassy to Jerusalem - PM

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose government faces a crucial by-election in four days, said on Tuesday Canberra was open to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, prompting concern from Indonesian and Palestinian officials.

Former senior diplomat John McCarthy has slammed the federal government's announcement that it is considering moving Australia's Israeli embassy to West Jerusalem, warning that such a move will be harshly judged by Islamic nations, including neighbouring Indonesia.

The Trump administration turned its back on decades of U.S. policy by recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving the USA embassy from Tel Aviv in May.

Jerusalem is also a holy city for the largely Muslim population of the Palestinian territories, and they feared that recognition of the city as a Jewish capital would imperil shared access to the many religious sites.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his approval on Monday. Elections are slated to be held this weekend in a tight race that could rob Morrison of a majority in parliament.

'Foreign policy, and Australia's national interest are far too important to be played with in this fashion, ' Senator Wong said.

Morrison came to power in August after a revolt by hardline conservatives in the Liberal party ousted his more moderate predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull.

Morrison's comments about recognizing Jerusalem and possibly moving Australia's embassy there, just like U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial decision in December, would reverse decades of foreign policy and inflame tension with some of Australia's Asian neighbors.

Morrison rejected suggestions that his decision to consider following Trump's lead was a result of United States pressure or related to the by-election in Sydney's Wentworth district on Saturday.

"You don't unilaterally make these decisions", Mr Morrison said.

While both Russian Federation and France offered to host delegations from Israel and Palestine for renewed peace talks, on December 6, 2017 Trump announced that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Morrison also announced Australia would vote against a United Nations resolution this week to recognise the Palestinian Authority as the chair of the Group of 77 developing countries.

"We're committed to a two state solution, but frankly, it hasn't been going that well".

"When sensible suggestions are put forward that are 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", Morrison told reporters. The Liberal candidate contesting the by-election on Saturday, Dave Sharma, is a former Australian ambassador to Israel who has floated the idea in the past.

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