Thu, 22 Nov 2018
16
Jerusalem

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he is considering recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the country's embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Prime Minister Morrison told reporters Tuesday he was 'open minded' about a suggestion made by Dave Sharma, a former ambassador to Israel. U.S. President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital last December, breaking with a long-standing policy that Jerusalem's status should be settled as part of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. The U.S. Embassy officially opened in Jerusalem in May.

Sharma, a member of Morrison's ruling conservative Liberal Party, is running in a parliamentary by-election this Saturday in a district in Sydney with a Jewish population. If Sharma loses, the Liberals will lose its single-seat majority in the House of Representatives.

Penny Wong, a lawmaker with opposition Labor Party, accused the prime minister of putting politics ahead of Australia's long-term national interest.

Morrison's decision is also being greeted negatively in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is reporting that an unnamed Indonesian official said Morrison's announcement could jeopardize a landmark bilateral trade deal he and President Joko Widodo are scheduled to sign later this year.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, who was visiting Jakarta on a diplomatic mission Tuesday, warned that Morrison is 'risking Australia's trade and business relationship with the rest of the world,' particularly the Muslim world, as well as violating both international law and U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Morrison insisted that his decision had nothing to do with either the Sydney by-election or from any pressure from the Trump administration, and said Australia would continue to support a two-state solution. He later told Parliament that he had briefed President Widodo during a phone call before his announcement.

'We will continue to work closely and cooperatively with our allies and our partners all around the world on these issues,' Morrison said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was 'very thankful' for his Australian counterpart's decision in a post on Twitter Tuesday.

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