Australia waffling on proposal to move its embassy to Jerusalem

Australia appears to be backing away from a proposal  floated last month to move that nation’s embassy to Jerusalem.  Why? Pushback from Indonesia, which is negotiating a free trade pact with Australia.

New.com.au reports:

Fairfax Media reported a Morrison Government minister had quietly reassured Indonesian Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita that the proposal - which has become the sticking point holding up a $16.5 billion free trade agreement between the two countries - had a slim chance of going ahead.

Asked today what the chances were the embassy would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Mr Morrison told reporters in Singapore: “All I have said is that we will consider the matter.”

The Prime Minister has copped a backlash over the idea from Indonesia, Palestine and other predominantly Muslim countries, as well as the federal Opposition, since he floated the idea the week before last month’s crucial Wentworth by-election.

The Guardian reports:

Scott Morrison will attempt to rescue the Australia-Indonesia free trade agreement in his first meeting with Joko Widodo on the sidelines of the Asean summit in Singapore.

Indonesia’s trade minister, Enggartiasto Lukita, has confirmed there will be no deal while Australia considers moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“It can be signed any time but when you will sign it … depends on Australia’s position [on the embassy],” he told Indonesian media in Singapore on Tuesday, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.

Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim country and a strong supporter of Palestine – is furious at the potential relocation, which was announced during the Wentworth byelection.

This is very regrettable. I am sure that Australia wants to increase its trade with Indonesia, which is a population giant compared to Down Under, and which has a growing economy. But backing away does not augur well for future relations between the two nations. President Trump was willing to take backlash:

Photo credit: Flickr

but with Australia’s Liberal government (in fact, the conservative party) in trouble and facing elections, courage may be in short supply in Canberra.

Hat tip: John McMahon