Scott Morrison open to moving Australia's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

Frederick Owens
October 16, 2018

Australia's prime minister said Tuesday he was open to shifting the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in line with President Donald Trump's decision to recognise the contested holy city as Israel's capital.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison raised the issue during a phone conversation with his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, on Monday. "We will continue to strengthen ties between", he said in the Tweet.

By contrast, the USA administration has yet to officially endorse the notion of Palestinian statehood (Trump said last month that he likes the two-state solution and finds it the most feasible option, but later clarified that he was happy with any solution the two sides can agree on).

Facing a domestic backlash and the threat of foreign trade retaliation, Australia's Prime Minister on Tuesday appeared to slow-peddle a controversial decision to move the country's embassy to Jerusalem, saying he would first consult with allies. "I think we have to challenge that", Morrison said earlier in Canberra.

Mr Morrison has also announced the government would review Australia's support for the Iran nuclear deal to see whether it was still "fit for purpose" in preventing the country from acquiring nuclear weapons after Mr Trump withdrew the USA from the Obama-era deal.

Morrison's openness to recognizing Jerusalem and moving Australia's embassy there comes four days before a by-election in Sydney at which his center-right coalition runs the risk of losing its tenuous hold on power.

The opposition centre-left Labor Party denounced Morrison's announcement. If Sharma is not elected as the new lawmaker for Wentworth, the government will lose its single-seat majority in the House of Representatives.

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

"This is an irresponsible policy that compromises the future of millions of people in the Middle East", Browning said in a statement.

Morrison is expected to deliver the announcement on Tuesday in a statement explaining why Australia will vote against recognizing the Palestinian Authority (PA) as the chair of the Group of 77 (G77) -the largest bloc of developing nations at the United Nations - the Australian reported. He said no decision had been made and he was simply being open to the suggestion.

The Australian newspaper Sydney Morning Herald quoted Morrison on its website as saying the question of recognizing Jerusalem "was something he would "discuss. further with cabinet colleagues in the coming months".

"There has been no request, and there has been no discussion with the United States".

The decision prompted the 13 ambassadors to call a meeting in the Australian capital, Mohamed Khairat, Egypt's ambassador to Australia told Reuters by telephone.

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