Prime minister Scott Morrison has proposed following Donald Trump in relocating Australia’s embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, effectively recognising the historically disputed Middle Eastern city as Israel’s capital.
Mr Morrison announced he will continue to back a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but suggested following the US President controversial decision to move Israeli embassies.
The US officially opened its embassy in Jerusalem in May this year, prompting violent clashes and mass protests on the border between Israel and the Palestinian territories.
If it Australia followed the US move, it would fly in the face of global opinion and make it just the second major nation to proceed with the controversial move from Tel Aviv.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s office office issued a statement on Tuesday morning (AEST) saying Benjamin Netanyahu had spoken to Mr Morrison by phone on Monday during which he confirmed he was “considering official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and moving its embassy there”.
Mr Morrison’s decision follows his decision to vote against a United Nations resolution to enable the Palestinian Authority to chair the Group of 77 (G77), a coalition of developing nations who promote each others economic interests.
The Prime Minister’s stance appeared to follow talks with Liberal Party candidate for the seat of Wentworth Dave Sharma, a former Israeli ambassador.
Mr Sharma is believed to have persuaded Mr Morrison to support moving the Australian embassy.
The shift is seen as a key political strategy ahead of the looming by-election on October 20 in Malcolm Turnbull’s former seat of Wentworth, where the 2016 census found Jewish residents comprised almost 13 per cent of the population.
Former prime minister Tony Abbot has previously voiced support for the embassy move, prompting Mr Sharma to post on Twitter that even if Australia does not support an the shift move, it should “at least consider recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital”.
Even if we don’t move Embassy, we shld at least consider recognising 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? https://t.co/F30Dh1GOyN
— Dave Sharma (@DaveSharma) May 15, 2018
Mr Morrison will formally announce Australia’s foreign policy towards Israel on Tuesday.
It is expected that he will discuss the possibility of launching an inquiry into whether Australians believe the country should, like the US, pull out of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
It is also understood that Mr Morrison will reveal plans to strengthen Australia’s security cooperation with Israel.
Mr Morrison also raised the prospect of placing members of the Australian armed personnel, known as a Defence Attache inside the embassy to serve as a representative of the country’s defence force.