Liberals lose majority in Australia, Jerusalem embassy move unlikely

The loss of the Liberal Party in the wealthy, heavily Jewish Wentworth district, means that Morrison’s Liberal government has lost its one-seat majority.

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October 21, 2018 03:08
1 minute read.
Dave Sharma.

Dave Sharma Australian Ambassador to Isarel 370. (photo credit: Courtesy Australian Embassy)

 
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Former Australian ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma lost a critical by-election in the Sydney area on Saturday, casting doubt now on whether Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will go through with his announcement last week to consider recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the capital to Jerusalem.

The loss of the Liberal Party in the wealthy, heavily Jewish Wentworth district, which includes parts of Sydney and some of its wealthy suburbs, means that Morrison’s Liberal government has lost its one-seat majority.

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The Wentworth by-election was triggered by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who held the seat since 2004, resigning after being ousted by his own party in favor of Morrison in August. This was the sixth time that a national leader has been replaced in Australia in the last decade. New national elections must be held by next May, and although the Wentworth defeat will not bring down the government, it will make it difficult to pass legislation.

Independent Party candidate Kerry Phelps, who is a convert to Judaism, won the seat in the traditionally Liberal district.

Last week, in the run-up to the election in the district which is home to an estimated 20,000 Jews, or 12.5% of the population, Sharma said that Australia should be open to moving its embassy to Jerusalem. This was echoed by Morrison, who on Tuesday announced that Australia was open to considering the move.

He even spoke about this last week with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who thanked him for considering the step. The Palestinians quickly lambasted Morrison’s announcement, warning that it would harm Australia’s ties with the Arab world.

Some attributed Morrison’s announcement – which represented a significant Australian foreign policy shift – to an attempt to woo Jewish voters in Wentworth.


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