Australia’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would strike a “really big blow” that “will affect bilateral relations” with neighbouring Indonesia, according to a message exchange between Foreign Minister Marise Payne and her Indonesian counterpart.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told Senator Payne the move would “slap Indonesia’s face on the Palestine issue.”
Ms Retno, top diplomat for the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, appeared particularly upset that Australia’s diplomatic initiative coincided with a visit to Jarkarta by Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki.
She was joined in her condemnation by 13 Arab ambassadors in Australia who called the suggestion regrettable and asked Mr. Morrison to reconsider, Reuters reports.
Senator Payne’s office did not deny the wording of the WhatsApp messages that were publicly revealed on local televison network Channel 7:
— 7 News Sydney (@7NewsSydney) October 17, 2018
In a statement seen by the Sydney Morning Herald, a spokesman said Senator Payne and her Indonesian counterpart had a “constructive discussion” about the announcement and Australia was aware of Indonesia’s perspective on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“Minister Payne emphasised that there had been no change to Australia’s commitment to the Middle East peace process and to a durable and resilient two-state solution that allowed Israel and a future Palestinian state to exist side by side, within internationally recognised borders,” he said.
The heated diplomatic exchange between the Pacific neighbours comes after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia is “open” to the idea of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and emulating the U.S. by moving its embassy there.
“We are committed to a two-state solution, but frankly, it hasn’t been going that well – not a lot of progress has been made,” he told reporters on Tuesday during a press conference in Canberra.
Australia could still support a two-state solution and recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – something that Australia had “to date assumed” was unfeasible, Mr. Morrison said.
The potential move was immediately hailed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
I spoke today with Australian PM @ScottMorrisonMP. He 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. We will continue to strengthen ties between & !
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) October 15, 2018
The United States officially relocated its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, attended the ceremony.
Mr. Trump promised to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during his 2016 presidential campaign and announced the decision to proceed last December.
Some of Judaism’s holiest sites are located in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem; the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron; and Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus.
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