Australia's spy agency warned ministers against Jerusalem embassy move

The warning came in light of the Prime Minister's announcement about a shift in his Middle East policy, and his decision to relocate Australia's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

By
October 18, 2018 08:39
1 minute read.
The new Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends a news conference in Canberra, Australia Au

The new Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends a news conference in Canberra, Australia August 24, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/DAVID GRAY/FILE PHOTO)

In an appeal to Canberra’s ministers on Wednesday, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) warned that Prime Minister John Morrison's proposal to relocate its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem may "provoke protest, unrest and possibly some violence in Gaza and the West Bank," according to The Guardian Australia.

The warning came in light of Morrison’s announcement the day before about a shift in his Middle East policy, and his decision to relocate Australia’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Morrison also said that he is considering withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.

The newspaper obtained a secret ASIO bulletin, marked AUSTEO (Australian eyes only), which was circulated to ministers on October 15, the day before Morrison announced his decision. The bulletin stresses that Morrison’s shift in Middle East policy would “attract international attention.”

“We expect any announcement on the possible relocation of the Australian embassy to Jerusalem or consideration of voting against Palestinians in the United Nations may provoke protest, unrest and possibly some violence in Gaza and the West Bank,” the bulletin said. It added that Australian facilities may be endangered by any public announcement by the government, and “attacks and violent protests” have occurred in the past when political tensions were high.

The ASIO bulletin also noted that Australian interests in Iran may be targeted as well if Canberra withdraws from the Iran nuclear deal.
 
ASIO pointed out that internal protests within Australia are also possible, although it is unlikely that those protests would be violent. It wrote that although they are unaware of any threats to Jewish interests in Australia, Israeli and Jewish facilities remain “an enduring target of extremists globally.”

“While a small number of Australian-based individuals maintain a violent Islamist extremist ideology that includes a strong antisemitic element, we are not aware of any specific or credible terrorist threat to Israel or Jewish interests in Australia.”

Representatives from 13 Middle Eastern and North African embassies in Australia condemned Morrison’s decision, saying the idea was a “fatal mistake” and is likely to cause a breakdown in economic relations with Arab and Muslim countries.

Currently, the United States and its ally Guatemala are the only countries that have moved their embassies to Jerusalem.


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