Australian FM: We won't relocate embassy to Jerusalem

Australian FM Julie Bishop's comments came after the former prime minister called to move the embassy to Jerusalem to show support for Israel.

January 2, 2017 14:40
2 minute read.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop . (photo credit: REUTERS)

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that Australia "does not have any plans to move the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem," The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Monday.

Bishop's comments came in response to a call from former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott to move the embassy to Israel's declared capital as US President-elect Donald Trump has vowed he will do once in office.

Abbott caused controversy with a column he wrote in The Spectator Australia on 29 December in which he called for a cut to Australian funding to Palestinians in addition to his call to move the embassy to Jerusalem.

In the column, Abbott wrote that "Australia should cut our $40 million a year aid to the Palestinian Authority while it keeps paying pensions to terrorists and their families," adding that Australia should demonstrate its "support for Israel" by mirroring Trump's plan to "move its embassy to Jerusalem."
Australian FM Julie Bishop in Israel

Bishop rejected both of Abbott's suggestions, defending Australian aid to the Palestinian Authority, which she said is stipulated on a "zero tolerance policy" for fraud and corruption.

Head of the Palestinian delegation in Australia, Izzat Abdulhadi, warned of possible sanctions  from Muslim countries if Australia were to take Abbott's suggested measures. Abdulhadi said that relocating the embassy would "severely damage the prospects for a two-state solution to the conflict - the solution that is supported by Palestine, Australia, and the international community."

He further stated that Jerusalem's status is an important issue to Muslim countries and the relocation of the Australian embassy "would be met with widespread condemnation and potentially sanctions."

"International law deems east Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian territories—a position that is held by the overwhelming majority of the international community," Abdulhadi added.

Australia said last week that if it had been on the United Nations Security Council, Canberra would not have voted in favor of Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The decision, passed on December 23, was approved after the United States withheld its veto in the 15-member international chamber. 

Bishop said after the vote that the current government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is “firmly committed to a two-state solution,” but indicated it would not have supported the UN move.

“Australia is not currently a member of the UN Security Council and therefore not eligible to vote on UNSC resolutions,” Bishop said. “In voting at the UN, the coalition government has consistently not supported one-sided resolutions targeting Israel.”

Turnnbull later condemned the resolution in a speech to the Central Synagogue in Sydney on Friday, according to the Australian Jewish News.

He described the resolution as "deeply unsettling for our community" and "one-sided" and vowed that "Australia stands with Israel. We support Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East... We support a peaceful resolution of the disputes between Israel and the Palestinians... we support a two-state solution just as the government of Israel does." 

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