Netanyahu Praises Australia’s Possible Embassy Move, Palestinians Slam ‘Fatal Mistake’

australia visit
Jason Reed/Pool via AP
DEBORAH DANAN

TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded Australia’s prime minister for saying that he may follow in the U.S.’s footsteps and move his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, while the Palestinians lambasted it as a “fatal mistake.” 

Scott Morrison “informed me that he is considering officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel & moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem. I’m very thankful to him for this,” Netanyahu tweeted late Monday night.

“We will continue to strengthen ties between Israel and Australia,” he added.

Representatives from 13 Middle Eastern and North African embassies in Australia have slammed the move as a “fatal mistake” that could result in a breakdown in economic relations with the Arab and Muslim world, the Guardian reported.

“It was a surprise for all of us … they can’t understand this, especially with the trade and good relationship with Australia. Australia has a good reputation with the Arab world. We have a lot of students coming from the Gulf states and other countries, we have a large community,” a statement from the Muslim and Arab representatives said.

The Palestinian Authority delegation to Australia also condemned the move, calling it “deeply disturbing.”

“The short-term political gain that could be secured by moving the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would surely be outweighed by the detriment both to Australia’s international standing and in its relations with Arab and Muslim-majority countries and the international community more broadly,” the delegation said.

The Palestinian leadership further warned Australia to “exercise caution and prudence towards this sensitive final-status issue and to seriously consider the consequences of any such move.”

On Tuesday, Morrison said he was “open-minded” to proposals to recognize Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel and move the embassy there.

“We’re committed to a two-state solution, but frankly it hasn’t been going that well, not a lot of progress has been made, and you don’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results,” Morrison said.

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. A loss in the election would mean Morrison would lose his one-seat majority in parliament.

“Scott Morrison is now so desperate to hang on to his job, he is prepared to say anything if he thinks it will win him a few more votes — even at the cost of Australia’s national interest,” said the opposition Labour party’s foreign policy spokeswoman Penny Wong.

Morrison also announced that Canberra will vote against a UN resolution making the “State of Palestine” chair of the Group of 77.

“We don’t believe that conferring that status, especially at this time, would add to the cause of moving parties towards the two-state solution,” he stated.

Morrison said Monday that Sharma’s proposal regarding Jerusalem was a “practical and insightful way forward which I’ve found quite persuasive.”

“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 stated.

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