There’s something the mainstream doesn’t mention regarding Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s proposal to move Australia’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Whether the embassy moves or stays put, it can’t possibly exacerbate the long running conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.
This week, the Palestinians launched hundreds of rockets into Israel, killing at least one man.
The Israelis responded with their own missile strikes and sniper fire, killing at least six Hamas men.
And all this while the Aussie embassy remains faithfully in Tel Aviv.
With that in mind, Indonesia’s angst over a possible embassy move — fanned by left-wing activists in Australia — is blind to the reality that such a move can’t possibly make the situation worse. And that indeed, the move could help drive Palestinian authorities back to the negotiating table and finally realise an independent state of Palestine.
Maintaining the broken status quo is not a viable solution.
Yet the Indonesian government appears to believe blackmailing Australia over a free trade agreement is an appropriate response.
Morrison’s attempt to salvage the free trade deal
Mr Morrison is now intending to review the location of Australia’s embassy in Israel before Christmas in order to salvage the free trade agreement.
He added that there was only a 5% chance of the embassy move actually going forward.
The Prime Minister attempted to rescue the stalled Australia-Indonesia trade pact upon meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Singapore on Wednesday — their first face-to-face encounter since Mr Morrison announced he was considering moving the embassy to Jerusalem.
But Indonesia is furious at the idea.
The two leaders — one being the world’s most populous Muslim nation and a key Palestine supporter — were due to sign the two-way trade deal this week, but the agreement has since been put on hold until the issue of the embassy has been resolved.
Wednesday’s meeting on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit took some time to thaw. President Widodo asked for specific details of the potential Jerusalem move, as well as a time frame for the review — which Mr Morrison said was currently underway.
‘There will be consultation … and that will go through the process of our national security committee and cabinet.’
He also added that the review is intended to be completed before Christmas.
Issues of embassy and fair trade are not linked
Despite stated otherwise by Indonesian ministers, the Prime Minister also said that the issues of the embassy and fair trade were not linked ‘in any way shape or form in our discussions’ — instead, he said there was an ‘absolute understanding’ of the trade’s deal’s benefits for both Australia and Indonesia, but no official date had been set to settle the agreement.
Mr Morrison also said that the Sulawesi earthquake and issues surrounding terrorism were discussed at the meeting.
However, Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Penny Wong, has stressed that the embassy decision was meanwhile harming Australia’s economy, costing jobs and straining one of the country’s most important foreign relations.
‘The prime minister’s visit to Singapore has now exposed in full the utter debacle created by Mr Morrison’s desperate decision to trash decades of considered bipartisan foreign policy,’ Senator Wong told parliament.
Not hard to see it for what it ultimately is…an utterly failed policy.
Liberal senator Eric Abetz added that Australia should rethink foreign aid to Indonesia if it were to continue to dictate foreign policy.
But Mr Morrison has strongly replied that Australia has always supported Indonesia in times of crisis, as well as boosting their economic development.
‘That’s our way, that’s what we do,’ he said.
Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has been strongly committed to the deal being signed before April 2019, when Indonesians go to the polls.
He said in Singapore on Tuesday:
‘We want to see it signed, Indonesia wants to see it signed, I’m confident that we will see it signed before then.’
Australians are then due to go to the polls in May, so even if the deal is signed, it will unlikely be approved by parliament until afterwards.
But with Indonesia’s Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi’s firm stance, only time will tell where this crossroad will lead.
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