Australia mulling embassy move to Jerusalem: PM

Clay Curtis
October 17, 2018

Mr Morrison has opened the door to moving Australia's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and announced a review of the government's support for the Iran nuclear deal, which is created to prevent the country acquiring nuclear weapons but has faced staunch criticism from the United States and Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Monday evening to the country's new Prime Minister Scott Morrison and thanked him for his surprising announcement.

Morrison, whose government faces a crucial by-election that could weaken its grip on power, said Canberra was open to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving its embassy there.

"And I was very pleased by the warm exchange I had yesterday with the President".

Morrison also announced that Canberra will vote against a United Nations resolution making the "State of Palestine" chair of the Group of 77.

Australia's former ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, who is in favor of such a move, is running as a Liberal candidate for the House of Representatives in the Sydney seat of Wentworth, a heavily Jewish area of Sydney.

Co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said The Executive Council of Australian Jewry warmly welcomed the announcements by Prime Minister Morrison regarding the status of Jerusalem, the Iran Deal and the Palestinian bid to chair a United Nations group, the G77.

Israel regards all of the city - including the eastern sector it annexed after the 1967 Middle East war - as its capital while the Palestinians, with broad global backing, want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The Prime Minister denied the looming by-election in Wentworth, which has a large Jewish community, had any impact on his decision on Australia's shift in approach to Middle East policy, or that his evangelical religious beliefs - a key factor in the shift in USA policy in the region - played any role.

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"Our agreement with them is on track", the Prime Minister said this morning.

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

Relations between Australia and Indonesia have been damaged by a series of scandals and spats over the decades but improved under Morrison's predecessor Malcolm Turnbull, who lost his job in a leadership coup in August.

Morrison's Liberal government holds only a one-seat majority and a loss in the election would eviscerate it. She added: "Indonesia asks Australia and other countries to continue supporting the Palestine-Israel peace process in accordance with the principles that have been agreed, and to not take steps that may threaten the peace process and world stability".

Senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath said Mr Morrison appeared to be using short-term, domestic political considerations to set his foreign policy.

Morrison, an evangelical Christian, denied the potential embassy switch was motivated by domestic politics, his religious beliefs, or that Australia's main strategic ally, the US, had influenced the decision.

Mark Leibler concluded by stating "These new Australian foreign policy announcements are courageous, measured and principled - and most welcome".

Stressing that "no decision" has yet been made, Morrison promised to consult his cabinet as well as world leaders before making the bold move.

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