Netanyahu Thanks Australian PM for Consideration of Jerusalem Recognition, Embassy Move

Australia's Treasurer Scott Morrison attends a press conference in Parliament House in Canberra

Australia's Treasurer Scott Morrison attends a press conference in Parliament House in Canberra

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

Morrison, whose government faces a crucial by-election that could weaken its grip on power, said Canberra was open to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving its embassy there. "I believe if they country proceed with the plan, its neighbouring countries in ASEAN must register a very, very strong protest against the Australian government", he warned.

Mr Morrison said Australia was strongly behind a two-state solution but the government wanted to challenge orthodox thinking and the "taboo" question of Israel's capital.

Labor is concerned the approach could undermine the prospect of a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. The Liberal candidate for Wentworth, Dave Sharma, a former ambassador to Israel, has been a vocal advocate for reconsidering Australia's decades-long position.

If Australia does indeed relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, it will become the third country to recognize the city as the capital of Israel.

Trump's Jerusalem move marked the first time since the UN-brokered partition of Palestine in 1947 that a president of the USA - 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.

"And the Indonesian Trade Minister themself have made it very clear on the public record that that is not an issue of concern to them", the Prime Minister said.

Should it fail to win the seat, Morrison's government will lose its one-seat majority in the lower house, meaning it will be forced to rely on the support of minor parties to survive and pass legislation.

Morrison took office in August after a rebellion within the ranks of the Liberal Party ousted his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull.

"Morrison's embassy announcement seems reckless and has the potential to be received poorly in nations such Indonesia and Malaysia", said Greg Barton, chair in global Islamic politics at Melbourne's Deakin University.

Speaking with reporters at a smokehouse outside Canberra on Wednesday morning, Mr Morrison said he had been in "direct communication" with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

"Foreign policy, and Australia's national interest are far too important to be played with in this fashion", Labor lawmaker Penny Wong said.

George Browning, president of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, accused the government of "aligning itself with the most erratic, reactionary and bullish US foreign policy ever".

Morrison denied that the United States or the by-election had influenced his announcement.

The decision prompted the 13 ambassadors to call a meeting in the Australian capital, Mohamed Khairat, Egypt's ambassador to Australia told Reuters by telephone.

Stressing that "no decision" has yet been made, Morrison promised to consult his cabinet as well as world leaders before making the bold move. "It has not come up in any discussion I have had with the president or with officials", Morrison said. "We do so in our own national interests consistent with our own beliefs and our own values", he added.

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