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 How Scott Morrison’s controversial call to relocate Israeli embassy backfired

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PostSubject: How Scott Morrison’s controversial call to relocate Israeli embassy backfired   Mon 19 Nov 2018, 5:43 pm

The Prime Minister is in a bit of a pickle.

Scott Morrison’s suggestion to relocate the Australian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has sparked polarising reactions both around the world and within his own party.

Some critics have deemed it an attempt to win votes in last month’s by-election in Wentworth, which is home to a large number of Jewish people.

Others say he’s backed himself into a corner regardless of what happens next; even if he doesn’t end up moving the embassy, he’ll be accused of having caused needless controversy, and unnecessarily stirring up tension with Australia’s neighbours.

SCOMO’S CONTROVERSIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Mr Morrison announced last month he would consider moving Australia’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Why was it so controversial? Because both Israelis and Palestinians claim part of the capital city as their own. Moving our Israeli embassy there would effectively see us recognising the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel.

Only two countries around the world — the United States and Guatemala — have placed their embassies in Jerusalem.

US President Donald Trump was the first to do so, and his decision sparked mass protests in Gaza and across the world.

Mr Morrison stressed he was “committed to a two-state solution”, but said it “hasn’t been going that well”.

“Not a lot of progress has been made. And you don’t keep doing the same thing and expect different solutions,” he told reporters last month.

His announcement marked a significant shift in the Australian government’s stance. Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and his foreign minister Julie Bishop both categorically ruled out moving Australia’s embassy, shooting down suggestions from Tony Abbott.

The timing of Mr Morrison’s announcement — just before the Wentworth by-election — raised eyebrows, with critics accusing him of using the issue in an attempt to win votes.

Political commentator Michelle Grattan described it as “breathtaking” to hear him say the plan had nothing to do with the by-election.

“This assertion insults the intelligence of a savvy electorate. For goodness’ sake, the announcement was made on the very day of a Jewish-run candidates’ forum!” she wrote in The Conversation.

Speaking on ABC’s Insiders programyesterday, commentator Peter van Onselen said Mr Morrison had now worked himself into a “Catch-22 situation”.

“If he does move the embassy, that potentially sparks an international incident including with our nearest neighbour,” he said.

“If he doesn’t and leaves (the embassy) in Tel Aviv, he can now be accused of sparking a debate that we didn’t need to have.

“That’s a political Catch-22. Whichever way he goes, he will now be criticised.”

FURY FROM OUR NEIGHBOURS

As we speak, Indonesia is withholding its support for an important free trade agreement with Australia, until the Morrison Government clarifies its position on the embassy.

Indonesia — Australia’s closest neighbour with the world’s largest population of Muslims — is staunchly against the embassy being moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

So far, Mr Morrison is yet to confirm or deny whether the move will go ahead.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said while he hoped the agreement would be signed “in the coming months”, Mr Morrison would not be “bullied” into a decision on the embassy by another nation.

“It’s in our national interest to see the two-state solution progress. We all know that for decades now, there’s basically been little progress towards achieving the two-state solution between Israel and Palestine,” he told the ABC yesterday.

Echoing earlier remarks by Mr Morrison, Mr Birmingham sidestepped whether there was a link between the embassy announcement and the halt in the free trade agreement with Indonesia, saying he “does not conflate the issues”.

On Friday, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he feared Mr Morrison could increase the threat of terror attacks if we went through with the switch, saying it would be “playing into the hands of extremists”.

“I pointed out that in dealing with terrorism, one has to know the causes,” he told reporters. “Adding to the cause for terrorism is not going to be helpful.”

In response, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Canberra would make its own decisions, and pointed to a number of anti-Semitic remarks the Malaysian leader has made in recent months.

“He has called Jews ‘hooked-nosed people’. He has questioned the number of people that have been killed in the Holocaust. He banned Schindler’s List as a movie being shown,” Mr Frydenberg told reporters.

DIVISION OVER THE MOVE

In case the “Catch-22” wasn’t bad enough, the controversial suggestion has sparked division within Mr Morrison’s own party.

Defence Industry Minister Steven Ciobo told Nine News he believed it would be a mistake to move the embassy.

“My own personal view is that I think the current location of the embassy is the right one,” he said. “I think that there’s been a strong period where that’s been the case.”

Others, such as Mr Frydenberg and NSW senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, have voiced their support for the move.

Ms Fierravanti-Wells told The Guardian that Australia must determine its own foreign policy position and “not be afraid of commercial impacts”.

“Values are values and if you tell the Australian public you hold a particular value then there comes a time when you are going to have to make decisions and consider those decisions in the context of your values,” she said.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has also doubled down on his call for Mr Morrison to proceed with the controversial move, saying it’s a logical policy.

“We should make our decisions based on our national interests and our national values,” he told Sky News yesterday.

“And why shouldn’t we be showing solidarity with the only functioning liberal pluralist democracy in the Middle East, by supporting them and putting our embassy in their capital?

“Israel is a country under existential threat, it is a sibling pluralist democracy, it’s a country which shares our values, which in important respects, metaphorically at least, speaks our language.

https://www.news.com.au/finance/work/leaders/how-scott-morrisons-controversial-call-to-relocate-israeli-embassy-backfired/news-story/a49119550c14208863df3adc3c73688f
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PostSubject: Re: How Scott Morrison’s controversial call to relocate Israeli embassy backfired   Mon 19 Nov 2018, 6:46 pm

I don't think they have much choice except now to move it or be called craven and unprincipled.
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