With just four days to go before the crucial Wentworth by-election, Scott Morrison is doing everything he can to ensure a Liberal win in Malcolm Turnbull’s former Sydney seat.
However, the prime minister’s latest announcement has raised a few eyebrows. Morrison announced on Tuesday that he was considering moving the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and therefore recognising the holy city as Israel’s capital.
There are about 20,000 Jewish voters living in Wentworth, a sizeable enough figure to swing the election in to the Liberal Party’s favour.
Despite fears that the move could damage the peace process with Palestine, as ownership of the holy city has long been a highly controversial issue, Morrison said the current approach to try and establish a two-state solution had failed.
“We are committed a two-state solution and nothing has changed when it comes to the government’s position on this matter, but frankly, it hasn’t been going that well,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday, reports The Guardian. “Not a lot of progress has been made. And you don’t keep doing the same thing and expect different solutions.”
The potential shift in policy, which Morrison described as “sensible”, would mirror that carried out by President Trump in December last year which triggered violent protests in Gaza, leading to the killing of 58 Palestinians by Israeli forces.
Morrison also credited the Liberal candidate for Wentworth Dave Sharma, who is a former ambassador to Israel, with raising the issue, just days before he goes up against Labor’s Tim Murray and independent candidate Dr Kerryn Phelps to secure the seat.
“When sensible suggestions are put forward that are consistent with your policy and in this case, pursuing a two-state solution, Australia should be open-minded to this and I am open-minded to this,” Morrison added. “I’m not going to close my mind off to things that can actually be done better and differently.”
I spoke today with Australian PM @ScottMorrisonMP. He informed me that he is considering officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel & moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem. I’m very thankful to him for this. We will continue to strengthen ties between ???????? & ????????!
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) October 15, 2018
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the announcement and revealed he had spoken to the prime minister about the issue. He tweeted: “I spoke today with Australian PM @ScottMorrisonMP. He informed me that he is considering officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel & moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem. I’m very thankful to him for this. We will continue to strengthen ties between Israel and Australia.” (sic)
However, not everyone was on board with ScoMo’s announcement, with many Aussie voters taking to social media to express their disagreement with his potential policy. One person wrote: “I am utterly sickened by Morrison. He steps into an unnecessary situation to placate the jewish community in Wentworth thus endorsing the Israeli treatment of Palestinians. Hopefully this will sway the non jewish population there to vote labor.”
Another said: “Could it possibly be linked to the #WentworthByElection? Nah, what was I thinking – how cynical!”
While others praised the prime minister for making a “great decision” with one supporter saying: “Great decision…. Every nation should do the same.” Another commented: “It will be a great and wise move by Australia. Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel.”