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Australia May Move Its Israel Embassy to Jerusalem

October 16, 2018

Australia’s new Prime Minister said on October 15 he was “open to” the idea of moving Australia’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Newly-elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison said part of the reason for the move is that he sees Israeli-Palestinian relations as locked in place, and that just continuing what has existed in the past is not helping.

As Morrison said in comments on October 15, “The orthodoxy that’s driven this debate … says issues like considering the question of the capital are taboo. I think we have to challenge that.” He went on to say that, “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.”

The problem with moving yet another embassy (after the first and most significant one to go, from the United States, which announced its decision in June 2018) is that broad international opinion is that the status of Jerusalem should be settled as peace negotiations are complete. Israel is seen as having seized key parts of the city which Palestinian groups say were theirs, back in the 1967 war. Israel later added further fuel to the diplomatic fires by annexing eastern parts of the city which were never ceded to them by treaty. Those eastern regions are seen by Palestinians as not just theirs – but as part of their future capital.

Israel has played to the Christian religions in arguing their right to control Jerusalem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said keeping it is consistent with a biblical prophecy of the second coming of Jesus and the Rapture. That helped bring in support for the move from America’s evangelicals.

When Netanyahu heard of Morrison’s latest comments, he said he was “very thankful to [Morrison] for this”.

Penny Wong of Australia’s opposition party and its foreign affairs spokesman said the plan to move Australia’s embassy was wrong. She said that, “Foreign policy, and Australia’s national interest are far too important to be played with in this fashion.”

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