Published: Tue, October 16, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Australia prime minister considering following US on Jerusalem embassy move

Australia prime minister considering following US on Jerusalem embassy move

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.

Australia is considering recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and shifting its embassy there, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Tuesday, receiving backlash from the worldwide community.

While the possibility of relocating the Australian embassy to Jerusalem was welcomed by Netanyahu, Morrison's critics blamed the PM of catering to the Jewish electorate of Wentworth, where former Ambassador Sharma is trailing behind in the opinion polls ahead of the crucial parliamentary by-election scheduled this week.

Ambassadors from 13 Arab countries met in Canberra on Tuesday, concerned that Australia's move to consider recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital could damage peace prospects there, Egypt's ambassador said.

Labor has raised concerns about a possible breakdown in relations with the Muslim-majority nation since the Prime Minister flagged the possible foreign policy shift. "I'm very thankful to him for this", Netanyahu tweeted.

The two-state solution envisages an independent Palestine alongside Israel.

Morrison said Australia remained committed to finding a two-state solution to Israel's conflict with the Palestinians. "We will continue to strengthen ties" between Israel and Australia.

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The by-election is in the Sydney harborside seat of Wentworth vacated by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was ousted in a party-room coup by members of Morrison's Liberal party, the senior partner in a Liberal-National coalition, in August.

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.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media alongside Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne during a news conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, October 16, 2018.

Trump's Jerusalem move marked the first time since the UN-brokered partition of Palestine in 1947 that a president of the U.S. - a member of the Middle East Quartet, which is charged with mediating the peace process between Palestine and Israel - has departed from the established policy that the issue of Jerusalem as Israel's capital should be kept off the table.

Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector that it 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.

"I have made this decision without any reference to the United States", he said. "It has not come up in any discussion I have had with the president or with officials", Morrison said.

Australia makes its decisions about its foreign policy independently.

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