Australia mulls decision to move Israel embassy to Jerusalem

Australia mulls decision to move Israel embassy to Jerusalem
3 min read
11 December, 2018
Canberra's indication it could follow Trump's move has already stirred anger internationally.
The decision to move the embassy risks angering Australia's Asian neighbours [Getty]
Australian ministers are mulling a possible embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, two sources familiar with the matter said, according to Reuters, in a provocative move that would break decades of policy and risks angering its Asian neighbours.

"Cabinet met today and the issue of moving the Israeli embassy was discussed. The decision is still pending," said one of the anonymous sources who declined to be identified.

The move follows comments made by Prime Minster Scott Morrison in October who said he was "open" to moving the embassy to Jerusalem, following a similar move by US President Donald Trump which caused global outrage among supporters of peace in the region.

Canberra's indication has angered Asian neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia, which have no official diplomatic ties with Israel.

Local Australian media, which reported an announcement could be made as early as this week, noted several senior cabinet members were leaning toward recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital while stopping short of moving the embassy.

Other alternatives Canberra is reportedly considering include retaining its Tel Aviv embassy and opening a smaller consulate in west Jerusalem, but Palestine's envoy to Australia Izzat Abdulhadi said it would still "legitimise the illegal occupation of Jerusalem".

Another option on the table is that Morrison's government could attempt to mitigate the backlash from an embassy move by making token gestures towards the Palestinians, including by increasing its diplomatic presence in Ramallah. 

The latest developments came after the Arab League on Monday told Brazil's incoming president Jair Bolsonaro that following the US by moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem would "harm" ties with Arab nations.

A letter seen by Reuters from the league's Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit to Brazil's foreign ministry said the move was a sovereign decision for a country. "However the situation of Israel is not normal, seeing that it is a country that has been occupying Palestinian territories by force - among them East Jerusalem," the letter said.

The far-right former army captain Bolsonaro, who takes office in the new year, has said he would deliver on his campaign promise and move the embassy from Tel Aviv, echoing US President Donald Trump's decision in May this year. He walked back that statement a few days later, stating that "it hasn't yet been decided".

Read more: Guns and Christians: Explaining Bolsonaro's Israel embassy move

Bolsonaro has also previously said he would close the Palestine mission in Brasilia.

Such moves would be a dramatic shift in Brazilian foreign policy, which has backed a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine for more than 50 years and formally recognised the Palestinian state in 2010.

Israel considers the entire holy city its capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, with international consensus being that the status of the whole city must be negotiated between the two sides.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would be a violation of international law and UN Security Council resolutions, Aboul Gheit said.

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