Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday warned his successor that recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would threaten Australia’s relationship with Indonesia.
Following a meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo at a global conference, Turnbull advised Prime Minister Scott Morrison who deposed him as leader of the governing Liberal Party in August that Widodo expressed “serious concern” about the plan to move Australia’s Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“There is no question, were that move to occur, it would be met with a very negative reaction in Indonesia.
“This is after all the largest Muslim-majority country in the world,” Turnbull told reporters on Tuesday.
Morrison declared he was “open” to the idea of moving the embassy in the lead-up to the by-election in Turnbull’s former seat of Wentworth.
More than 12 per cent of voters in Wentworth are Jewish and would be more likely to support the move.
If the move was to go ahead, Australia would become the second country in the world to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s capital after the U.S. did so.
During a 40 minute meeting with Widodo, Turnbull said the Indonesian President “expressed to me, as he has done to Prime Minister Morrison, the very serious concern held in Indonesia about the prospect of the Australian embassy in Israel being moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
With Indonesians headed to the polls for a general election in 2019 Widodo has been working to secure the support of the nation’s conservative Islamic majority who oppose recognising Jerusalem as an Israeli city.
Widodo’s objection to Morrison’s announcement raised doubt over whether a free trade agreement between Indonesia and Australia, which took eight years to negotiate, would go ahead but Turnbull dismissed that notion.
“I have no reason to believe it won’t.
“Of course, it then has to be ratified through the Indonesian parliamentary system in the normal way,” he said. (Reuters/NAN)