Seven months after losing an election in his first foray into national politics, former Australian ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma – now a Liberal Party politician – bounced back Sunday and won the seat in the heavily Jewish district of Wentworth in eastern Sydney, once held by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
By only some 2,500 votes, Sharma defeated Independent incumbent Kerryn Phelps, a convert to Judaism. On Sunday, the Liberal’s Scott Morrison stunned the pollsters and defeated Labor’s Bill Shorten to retain his seat as prime minister.
Sharma was a highly-regarded, active and high-profile ambassador during his four years in Israel from 2013 to 2017, developing close contacts with senior government officials. One of those officials described Sharma as a “true friend” of Israel “with all his heart and soul.”
Though a new parliamentarian, Sharma’s name has already been bandied about as a possible minister. The Sydney Morning Herald reported Monday that Sharma “brushed aside questions about whether he would be given a cabinet position.”
The paper quoted Sharma as saying, “I’ll be concentrating my time over the next weeks, months and years to being a good local representative.”
The Wentworth district incorporates the eastern Sydney suburbs, including Bondi. The seat in the district has long been a Liberal bastion, and was vacated in October when Trumbull resigned from parliament after being ousted by his own party in favor of Morrison.
The importance of the Liberal Party retaining that seat in October, and the fact that Wentworth is home to an estimated 20,000 Jews, or 12.5% of the electorate there, was widely considered one of the reasons Morrison at the time said he was “open” to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy there.
During the campaign, Sharma, when asked about moving the embassy, said, “I think we should be open to considering it as Australians. The US has done it.” In December, Morrison stopped short of moving the embassy, and recognized “only” west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In April, an Australian Trade and Defense Office was opened in the capital.