Indonesian anger over Jerusalem revealed in WhatsApp exchange
Foreign Minister Marise Payne reportedly received blistering messages from her Indonesian counterpart warning that Australia's talk of recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital would be a "really big blow" that "will affect bilateral relations".
Despite the Morrison government's efforts to downplay the impact on relations with Australia's predominantly Muslim neighbour, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told Senator Payne that the move would "slap Indonesia's face on the Palestine issue".
Ms Retno appeared particularly upset as the announcement by Australia coincided with a visit to Jarkarta by Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki.
"Is it really necessary to do this on Tuesday?" Ms Retno wrote, according to Seven News.
Senator Payne's office did not deny the wording of the WhatsApp messages.Advertisement
In a statement, a spokesman said Senator Payne and her counterpart had a "constructive discussion" about the announcement and Australia was aware of Indonesia's perspective on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
"Minister Payne emphasised that there had been no change to Australiaâs commitment to the Middle East peace process and to a durable and resilient two-state solution that allowed Israel and a future Palestinian state to exist side by side, within internationally recognised borders," he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison doubled down on Wednesday on his shock move to follow US President Donald Trump by considering moving Australia's Israel embassy to Jerusalem, which would overturn decades of foreign policy.
Most countries do not locate their embassies in Jerusalem because its territorial status remains unresolved under the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The government is also reviewing its support for the Obama-era Iran nuclear agreement - which would also be a popular move with Israel. The announcement of the possible policy shifts came just four days before the Wentworth byelection on which the gov ernment's one-seat majority hangs.
The Sydney seat has a significant Jewish population and Mr Morrison has credited Liberal candidate Dave Sharma - a former Australian ambassador to Israel - with influencing his thinking on the Jerusalem question.
Facing Labor questions about the announcement in Parliament, Mr Morrison went on the offensive, questioning Labor's commitment to Israel and raising the fact that as a young backbencher 16 years ago, Labor deputy leader Tanya Pliber sek had called the country a "rogue state".
Mr Morrison has downplayed warnings from the Indonesian government over the shock decision, insisting the announcement was "not an issue of concern" as Australia finalises a trade agreement with its largest neighbour and the world's most populous Muslim nation.Loading
The Indonesian anger was shared by Arab nations, whose representatives in Canberra released a statement on Wednesday expressing alarm that Mr Morrison would "seriously entertain the idea" and made a veiled threat about the risk to economic and political relationships.Loading
The statement, signed by Egyptian ambassador Mohamad Khairat as the head the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Canberra, said recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital would strengthen the Israel i position, be detrimental to the Palestinian cause, and hurt the peace process.
"The two-state solution means nothing without an equitable resolution to these final-status issues. In the absence of a functioning peace process, the sensible course of action would be for Australia to recognise the State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital," the statement said.
"Australia has long-standing and esteemed economic, cultural and political relations with the Arab world. We sincerely wish to preserve these relations."
Mr Morrison sought to emphasise the government's commitment to the Indonesian relationship and said its strength enabled "different views on things from time to time".
While Indonesia and other Muslim-majority nations have issued swift criticism of Mr Morrison's policy shift, it has been welcomed by Israel, Liberal Party heavyweights and the Trump administration.
Mr Morr ison says Australia remains supportive of a two-state solution but the government wanted to challenge orthodox thinking and the "taboo" question of Israel's capital.Mr Morrison said he had found Mr Sharma's arguments persuasive and they could offer a way forward for a process that "hasn't been going that well".License this article
- Marise Payne
- Scott Morrison
Fergus Hunter is a political reporter for Fairfax Media, based in Parliament House.
David Wroe is the defence and national security correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament HouseLoading
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