Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Monday that he will consider moving the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thereby recognizing the holy city as Israel’s capital.
“We’re committed to a two-state solution, but frankly it hasn’t been going that well, not a lot of progress has been made, and you don’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results,” Morrison stated.
Morrison will make an announcement today, which is set to be framed within a foreign policy statement, including an explanation as to why Australia will vote “no” to recognizing the Palestinian Authority (PA) as the chair of an important bloc of nations called the G77 in the UN, according to a report in The Australian.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Morrison by telephone and thanked him for his positive remarks. The two were also thought to have discussed ways to continue strengthening bilateral relations.
Reports suggest that Morrison was swayed in his thinking by conversations with former Australian Ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma. The former envoy, who is a candidate for Australia’s Liberal Party in a crucial by-election next week – activated when a previous prime minister Malcolm Turnbull resigned his seat – argued that backing the move was not inconsistent with Australia’s long-running position of support for a two-state solution.
Morrison has endured a great deal of criticism for the timing of his Jerusalem comments. The seat for which Sharma is up for election, Wentworth in Sydney, has an estimated 20,000 Jews or 12.5% of the population and the prime minister stands accused of trying to win them over with his announcement. Historically, the Australian Jewish community has been fiercely Zionistic and the government’s decision to move the embassy would be one that would largely be seen favorably.
Morrison’s Liberal Party is in a tricky situation, as they only hold a one-seat majority in the Australian parliament – which would be wiped out if they were to lose the by-election.
When asked by reporters about his views, Sharma said that Australia should be open to the possibility of moving the embassy but that it should be done in the context of a two-state solution.
In December, he tweeted that U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement (to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem), though risky, carried with it an “opportunity to advance peace.” In May, Sharma tweeted that even if Australia didn’t follow the United States’ lead and move the embassy to Jerusalem we should at least consider recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (w/o prejudice to its final boundaries or potential status as capital of future Palestinian state).
Where else do we disagree with a country about where its capital is?”
In other Australia-Israel related news, the two countries will appoint Defense Attaches to each other’s embassies and Australia will review its support of the Iran Nuclear Deal.