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Australian PM considers recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital

Oct. 16, 2018 3:00 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 18, 2018 9:51 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced, on Tuesday, that his country may follow the United States and move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Scott Morrison told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he is considering recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and transferring the embassy there.

Netanyahu posted a tweet on his Twitter account regarding his talk with Morrison "I spoke today with Scott Morrison. He informed me that he is considering officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel & moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem. I'm very thankful to him for this. We will continue to strengthen ties between Australia and Israel."

Morrison said he was "open to" following the move, describing it as a "sensible" proposal.

Morrison revealed that Australia's former ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, was a major influence in the shift in policy.

Morrison said "The previous discussion was premised on the point that you couldn't pursue this issue without risking or without prejudicing the final status. Now Dave is arguing the opposite to that and he's saying that is possible. He’s arguing it can be done consistent with Australia’s long-running position. He's actually changing the way in which the issue is conceived."

He argued that the status quo in Israeli-Palestinian relations had failed, "The orthodoxy that's driven this debate which says issues like considering the question of the capital are taboo. I think we have to challenge that."

Morrison added that the recognition of Jerusalem would be separate from any potential relocation of Australia's embassy, which would be a "longer term consideration."

Despite the controversial move, Morrison appeared to voice his commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He said that recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would not affect Australia's support for the two-state solution, "We're committed to a two-state solution. Not a lot of progress has been made. And you don't keep doing the same thing and expect different results."

However, critics have already argued that the move would risk undermining Australia's long-stated commitment to a two-state solution.

Such a move would go against the international consensus, which has been that Jerusalem's status should be settled in a peace agreement. In 1967, Israeli forces occupied and later on annexed eastern parts of the city, now known as East Jerusalem, which Palestinians consider as the capital of their future state of Palestine.

Although Morrison insisted that the US had not pushed pushed Australia to follow its lead, it would become the second major country, after the US, to make such a controversial move.

The US Donald Trump administration announced, last December, the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, causing outrage among Palestinians and across the Arab world.

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