Muslims rage over Australia’s openness to Jerusalem embassy move

Muslims demand Australia reconsider any steps towards recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy there.

By Jack Gold, World Israel News

The Palestinians and several Muslim countries expressed indignation after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced he was considering recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the country’s embassy to the city.

Morrison revealed the possibility in a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday. “I’m very thankful to him for this. We will continue to strengthen ties between Israel and Australia,” Netanyahu tweeted that day.

Morrison, Australia’s new prime minister, said on Tuesday he was “open” to following the U.S., which 10 months ago announced it was moving its embassy to Jerusalem. The idea was proposed to him by Dave Sharma, a member of his party and former ambassador to Israel.

“When sensible suggestions are put forward that are consistent with your policy positioning and in this case pursuing a two-state solution, Australia should be open-minded to this and I am open-minded to this and our government is open-minded to this,” Morrison told reporters.

Australia’s standing at stake?

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry called on Morrison to reconsider his move, claiming it would be “in violation of international law and United Nations resolutions.”

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A Tuesday statement published by the official Palestinian WAFA news agency claimed Morrison “harmed Australia’s interests and its international standing,” and urged the Australian opposition, civil society organizations, the business sector and the Arab and Islamic communities to press the Australian government to reconsider its position.

The Palestinian representative to Australia, Izzat Salah Abudulhadi, slammed the decision, calling Morrison’s plan “deeply disturbing” and saying it would embolden the Trump administration to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict in a way that leaves the status of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees “off the table,” the Guardian reported.

Abudulhadi hosted a meeting of representatives of several Middle Eastern countries on Tuesday to discuss the Australian prime minister’s proposal.

The head of the Palestinian delegation was joined by representatives from the embassies of 12 countries in the Middle East and North Africa: Kuwait, Jordan, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Sudan, Qatar, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Iraq.

Indonesia weighs in

When Morrison became prime minister in August, he made his first overseas trip to Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation which strongly supports the Palestinians.

Morrison told Parliament that he had briefed Jakarta overnight about the announcement. But the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported that an unnamed Indonesian official had said Jakarta had been taken by surprise by the announcement, which could harm trade negotiations between the two countries.

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Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said his government questions the merits of Morrison’s announcement and conveyed its “strong concern.”

“Indonesia has asked Australia and other countries to continue to support the Palestinian-Israeli peace process in accordance with the principles agreed upon and not take steps that could threaten the peace process itself, and threaten the stability of world peace,” she said.

While many Arabs and Muslims expressed sharp opposition to the U.S. relocation of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May and threatened action, the strong rhetoric did not manifest itself in violent protests.

AP contributed to this report.