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Shaath: 'Australia's PM to destroy chances of peace in Middle East'

Oct. 18, 2018 12:05 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 13, 2018 3:28 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Following Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's announcement that he may recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the senior adviser to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, accused Morrison of "destroying the chances of peace in the Middle East" in order to win a by-election.

Nabil Shaath said that Palestinian officials were now lobbying Arab countries to reassess their trade and political ties with Canberra, hours after diplomats from 13 Middle Eastern and North African embassies in Australia held an emergency meeting regarding the issue.

Morrison had announced, on Tuesday, that he is considering recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and transferring the embassy there. He described the move as a "sensible" proposal.

Within hours, Morrison's announcement received criticism from Indonesia and Malaysia, both Muslim-majority countries.

Indonesia expressed "strong concern," while Malaysia said Australia could jeopardize its relations with Asian countries.

Morrison's Liberal party faces a potential by-election upset in what was previously considered a safe seat in the key Sydney electorate of Wentworth. If his party does not win, the coalition government will lose its one-seat majority in parliament.

However, the Liberal candidate for Wentworth, Dave Sharma, denied that Morrison’s announcement, which signals the reversal of a 70-year foreign policy stance by Australia, had any relation to the by-election.

Shaath stressed that Morrison’s announcement was a "hostile action that destroyed the chances of peace."

Shaath said "It might increase the chances of the government winning Wentworth in Australia. But if this is the way you do politics in the Middle East in order to win a by-election in Australia, then please allow me to be very negative towards the policy of that Australian government."

Morrison said during the announcement 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."

Shaath argued Morrison's clam that the recognition would not affect the two-state solution, "Claiming that considering Jerusalem the capital of the state of Israel and moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem will contribute towards a regional peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians? What logic is this?"

New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, also commented on the issue and that it would not help Middle East peace, "We support a two-state solution and our view has been that any shift in representation, in the way we saw with the United States, does not move us closer to that peaceful resolution."

The fate of Jerusalem has been a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with numerous tensions arising over Israeli threats regarding the status of non-Jewish religious sites in the city, and the "Judaization" of East Jerusalem through settlement construction and mass demolitions of Palestinian homes.

International consensus has been that Jerusalem's status should be settled in a peace deal and recognizing it as a capital for either side would prejudice one party over the other. If Australia went ahead with the move, it would join just the US and Guatemala, which also relocated their embassy this year.

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