Published: Wed, October 17, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Australia May Move Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

Australia May Move Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

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.

Australia has raised the prospect of following the United States by relocating its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in a policy shift that critics described Tuesday as a desperate grab for domestic political gain to win a crucial byelection.

Morrison said Australia remained committed to finding a two-state solution to Israel's conflict with the Palestinians.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, and Australia are due to sign a trade deal this.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday at a Christian conference that he is keen to promote diplomatic relations with Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation. Though the UN General Assembly voted 128-9 to condemn the United States decision, Washington still opened its embassy in Jerusalem in May this year. The contentious inauguration in May, timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel's independence, escalated clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Australia may be the next country to officially move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

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.

Mr Morrison is expected to make an announcement on Tuesday as part of a foreign policy statement on Israel, in Canberra.

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The free trade deal with Indonesia is set to unlock education opportunities in the Asian country, which has a workforce of more than 130 million people but half of them only have a primary school education.

"The Indonesian trade minister has made it clear on the public record", Mr Morrison said.

Morrison said no decision had been made to move Australia's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but he said arguments in favour of such a move were "persuasive".

Arab diplomats, foreign affairs experts, and former officials have said the government's provocative announcement was counter to Australia's interests and the peace process, and questioned the timing of the announcement just days out from Saturday's knife-edge byelection in the Sydney seat of Wentworth, an electorate with a large Jewish community.

Mr Morrison has previously said his decision regarding Jerusalem came after talks with Wentworth by-election candidate and former Israel ambassador, Dave Sharma.

Morrison denied that the United States or the byelection had influenced his 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.

"I have been in direct contact with President (Joko) Widodo over the course of last night", he told Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

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