News World DFAT issues travel warning as government recognises West Jerusalem as Israel capital
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DFAT issues travel warning as government recognises West Jerusalem as Israel capital

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison first floated relocating Australia's embassy in Israel during the Wentworth by-election. Photo: AAP
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Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs has issued a travel warning for travellers heading to Indonesia after the Prime Minister confirmed Australia will recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Scott Morrison announced on Saturday that the Australian government will recognise West Jerusalem as the capital, but would not immediately move its embassy from Tel Aviv.

Mr Morrison announced the foreign policy shift during a speech in Sydney on Saturday, arguing it was a “balanced” and “measured” position.

“Australia now recognises West Jerusalem, being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison said the government will recognise East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital only after a settlement has been reached on a two-state solution, and the Australian embassy won’t be moved from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem until such a time, but a trade and defence office would be established in West Jerusalem.

“Furthermore, recognising our commitment to a two-state solution, the Australian government has also resolved to acknowledge the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem.

“We look forward moving to our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of and after, final status determination.”

Opposition leader Bill Shorten called says the government’s foreign policy shift without moving the Australian embassy as a “humiliating backdown” from a rushed by-election announcement.

Mr Shorten said the government’s announcement ahead of the October byelection in Wentworth, where 12 per cent of voters are Jewish, was “risky and foolish”.

“What I’m worried is that Mr Morrison put his political interest ahead of our national interest,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Adelaide.

“I regret that we’ve seen a complex debate derailed by reckless and foolish behaviour.

“I’m tempted to think it was a rookie mistake by an L-plate Prime Minister.”

Mr Shorten said Labor’s policy was to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel once a peace deal had been made, but he would not say if it would reverse the decision if Labor wins the next election.

Mr Morrison floated the idea of shifting the embassy in the dying days of the Wentworth by-election campaign, which sparked a backlash from Indonesia and Malaysia, threatening a free trade deal which has now been delayed.

The deal which has taken eight years to negotiate and would be worth $16 billion a year to Australia, had already been delayed, the government has repeatedly insisted.

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and is a strong supporter of the Palestinian territories. Malaysia also warned at the time that moving the embassy could fuel terrorism.

Demonstrations have taken place in recent weeks at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and the Australian Consulate-General in Surabaya. The embassy on Friday repeated earlier warnings to travellers, including Bali in the warning.

Community groups responded to the announcement, with the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network saying they were “dismayed” and the move would slam the door on peace.

“As Israel claims exclusive sovereignty over all of Jerusalem and refuses to abide by United Nations resolutions calling it to withdraw from occupied East Jerusalem, we cannot give them a free kick,” said the group’s president Bishop George Browning.

The potential embassy move was previously welcomed by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, which said the recognition of Jerusalem as capital would not prevent a future agreement between Israel and Palestinians.

PM Scott Morrison and President Joko Widodo. Photo: AAP

-with agencies

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