Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday said his government was considering recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. Morrison’s statement was criticised by Palestinian and Indonesian officials, Reuters reported.
Australia’s announcement follows United States President Donald Trump’s decision to relocate his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May. The move sparked protests by Palestinians in the Gaza which are intermittently still going on and which the Israeli military has tried to put down by force, shooting dead dozens of protesters and injuring thousands.
Israel considers Jerusalem its indivisible capital and wants all embassies based there. Palestinians want the capital of an independent Palestinian state to be in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war and annexed.
Morrison said Australia was still committed to a two-state solution. The Australian prime minister said one possibility could include recognising a Palestinian Authority capital in East Jerusalem and Israeli capital in West Jerusalem. He said he will consult with his Cabinet ministers and other nations before finalising any major decisions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to Twitter to welcome the announcement. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, during a joint conference, criticised the development. “They are risking Australia’s trade and business relationship with the rest of the world, in particular [the] Arab and Muslim world,” Maliki said.
Indonesia’s foreign minister said his nation urges Australia and other nations to support peace talks. “And not take steps that would threaten that peace process and stability of world security,” Marsudi said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Morrison told Parliament that he had informed Indonesian President Joko Widodo of his plans before making the announcement. Indonesia, Australia’s trading partner, is the biggest Muslim-majority country with a strong stance on the Palestine matter.
Ambassadors from 13 Arab countries met in Canberra on Tuesday and resolved to send a letter marking their concern to Australia’s foreign minister, Egyptian ambassador to Australia Mohamed Khairat said.