Australian FM says embassy won’t move to Jerusalem, rebuffing party pressure

Julie Bishop also rejects calls to halt aid to Palestinian Authority over its payments to ‘martyrs,’ says all funds are audited to ensure they don’t go to terror

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 4, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 4, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Australia’s foreign minister on Saturday ruled out moving the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, despite Canberra’s strong support for Israel.

“Jerusalem is a final status issue and we have maintained that position for decades,” Julie Bishop said, according to the Guardian.

At the Liberal party’s annual federal council in Sydney, MPs and party members voted to urge the government to relocate the embassy as well as freeze financial aid to the Palestinian Authority until it stops paying stipends to terrorists and their families.

But Bishop resisted the pressure from her party’s base.

“While I understand the sentiment behind this resolution, the Australian government will not be moving our embassy to Jerusalem,” the minister said in response.

She added that “We are doing all we can do to ensure that any support we give to the Palestinian Authority is only used for purposes that we determine.”

Bishop said Australia’s aid to the PA, which the Guardian reported was expected to amount to $43 million Australian ($32 million), was “subject to a memorandum of understanding, defining precisely how it is used and subject to very close audit to ensure that no funds are diverted to the so-called Martyr’s fund.”

Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott last year called on his country to cut the millions of dollars of annual aid to the PA until it stopped funneling the money to “terrorists and their families.” He also called on Canberra to join any move by the Trump administration to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem.

The US moved its Israeli mission to Jerusalem in April. Guatemala and Paraguay have followed suit.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the official opening ceremony of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said “there are at least half-a-dozen countries seriously talking with us about relocating their embassies.” According to some reports these include Romania and the Czech Republic.

Most Western countries have condemned US President Donald Trump’s move as not in line with international consensus, preferring to wait on recognizing the city until the status of Jerusalem is finalized in talks with the Palestinians.

Australia is a close ally of Israel and generally highly supportive of the Jewish state in the international arena.

This week it was one of only eight countries to vote against a United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Israel’s handling of violent protests on the Gaza border.

The motion condemned Israel for using “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate” force during the Gaza border clashes and called for an “international protection mechanism” for Palestinian civilians.

Australia was also the only country besides the United States to oppose the UN Human Rights Council’s recent establishment of an investigation into Israel’s killing of Palestinians during the violent protests on the border.

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