Australia

Israel embassy move 'less than 5 per cent' likely: Australia reportedly tells Indonesia

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Fairfax Media reports a member of the Australian government messaged Indonesian counterparts telling them there was ‘less than 5 per cent’ chance the embassy would move

The Australian government is reportedly downplaying the chances Scott Morrison will go through with a proposal to move Australia’s diplomatic outpost in Israel in its private conversations with Indonesian ministers.

The Morrison government is still trying to finalise a highly anticipated trade deal with Indonesia, ideally this year, but is facing a backlash from Jakarta over its announcement it would ‘consider’ a shift in Middle East policy.

Fairfax Media reports the Australian side have told Indonesian ministers in Singapore, where the ASEAN summit is underway, there is only a “five per cent chance” the embassy move will really happen.

Mr Morrison’s public position is that he is still “open” to moving Australia’s embassy in Israel from the city of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The government is conducting a "review", which Mr Morrison suggested would be completed before Christmas. 

Yesterday, Indonesian trade minister Enggartiasto Lukita all but confirmed the deal was on ice until Australia clarified its intention on the Israel issue.

“It can be signed any time, but when you will sign it depends on Australia’s position (on the embassy),” he told Indonesian media.

Analysts have warned Islamic groups in Indonesia would turn the matter into a domestic political ‘flashpoint’ and would pile pressure on the Indonesian government.

Labor's shadow foreign minister Penny Wong said there was no need to wait until Christmas for Mr Morrison to reveal his plans on the Israel matter. 

"Why wait till Christmas?" Ms Wong said on ABC Radio. 

She said the embassy rethink was "rash", "ill-considered" and "rushed", and was going to have "implications for our standing in the region".

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