December 2017 saw US president Donald Trump announce his intentions to move the United States embassy in Israel away from the official capital of Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem. Such an announcement was openly welcomed by the Israeli government. However, it was more or less rejected by many world leaders who saw it as unnecessarily inflammatory and divisive.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has today diverged from this supposed consensus by announcing that he too is open to the idea of moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem.
Morrison has recently become more internationally involved, after his support for the UK’s condemning of Russian cyber espionage.
He stated today that he found many of the arguments in favour of moving the embassy away from Tel Aviv to the historically contested and holy city of Jerusalem to be ‘persuasive’.
Morrison’s support for such a move is said to be the product of talks with former Israeli Ambassador and current Liberal candidate for the seat of Wentworth, David Sharma. Sharma is set to contest the affluent Eastern Suburbs seat held until recently by former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in this weekend’s by-election.
The Prime Minister did however confirm his support for a two state solution, but acknowledged that its progress was less than impressive. This announcement also coincided with Australia’s decision to vote ‘no’ in United Nations vote to allow the Palestinian Authority to become the chair of the upcoming G77 group of developing nations.
Critics of the government are questioning the timing of the Prime Minister’s sudden support for an embassy move, given the imminence of the extremely important Wentworth by election, a seat where 13% of voters are Jewish. The Liberals need to win the seat in order to retain their majority in the Lower House and maintain government. This has caused many critics to accuse the Prime Minister of using the Israeli – Palestinian conflict to buy votes.
Shadow Foreign Minister, Penny Wong stated that the Prime Minister is ‘so desperate’; he is ‘prepared to say anything… even at the cost of Australia’s national interests’.
The announcement unsurprisingly gained attention from the international community. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netenyahu tweeted his thanks to Morrison, and showed his support for strengthening bi lateral security ties between Australia and Israel.
Netenyahu has also announced that he will order an enquiry into whether Australia should remain in support of the hotly debated Iran Nuclear Deal, which the US has recently withdrawn from.