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Australia, Malaysia trade words over embassy move to Jerusalem

Nov. 16, 2018 3:08 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 19, 2018 10:42 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg responded, on Friday, to remarks from Malaysia's Prime Minister, Mahathir Muhammad, that were seen as anti-Semitic, amid a "diplomatic war of words" over the possibility of Australia moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Malaysia's Prime Minister raised the potential Australian embassy switch during a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Singapore, on Thursday, later telling local reporters that "such a move could increase the threat of terrorism."

Mahathir said "I pointed out that in dealing with terrorism, one has to know the causes. Adding to the cause for terrorism is not going to be helpful."

However, Frydenberg responded to these remarks, saying Australia would make its own decisions.

Frydenberg also mentioned Mahathir had made comments in the past about Jewish people, "He has called Jews 'hooked-nosed people.' He has questioned the number of people that have been killed in the Holocaust."

In October, Morrison had announced that he is considering recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and transferring the embassy to the city; he described the move as a "sensible" proposal.

Within hours of Morrison's announcement, he had received criticism from Indonesia and Malaysia, both Muslim-majority countries; Indonesia had expressed "strong concern," while Malaysia said Australia could jeopardize its relations with Asian countries.

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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