Australia has been warned that any attempt to move its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would risk a backlash in Indonesia including “mass rallies” and boycotts of Australian products.
Canberra announced the move earlier this month as a sign of support for the only free democracy in the Middle East. However a Human Rights Watch researcher warned on Tuesday that Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, will not look favourably on the matter.
Andreas Harsono, an Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, told SBS News he predicted “mass rallies” and “massive traffic jams” around the Australian embassy in the capital Jakarta if the plan was implemented.
“Of course, the protests will be aimed at Australian embassies, consulates, Australian companies,” he said.
Israel has already applauded the Australian intention to move its diplomatic presence, a sign of the warm relations between the two countries:
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
Mr Harsono said Muslim groups in Indonesia view the push for Palestinian “statehood” as a “lightning rod” issue and would push the Indonesian government to respond.
“Politically, Palestine is becoming a lightning rod,” he said.
“Palestine is becoming a cause – campaign material – easily used within many, many Muslim organisations. Not only the radical, but also the moderate ones. If it is about Palestine, their position is more or less always similar.”
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison remains unmoved by the threats of a backlash, confirming Monday that Australia is a soverign nation that makes its own decisions on world affairs.
He said the determining factor in the decision would be Australia’s national interest.
“Australia will always make our decisions on our foreign policy based on our interests and will do that as a sovereign nation,” Mr. Morrison told reporters.
“We will listen to others but Australia will always make decisions about our foreign policy on our terms and in our interests. I have always put our interests first and that is how the decision will be made.”
He said a final decision on the policy had not yet been made by the government, and he said “proper process” would be followed: “But let me stress, Australia decides what our foreign policy is and only Australia.”
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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