Labor ups attacks on government over Israel embassy move


Labor is continuing its assault on Prime Minister Scott Morrison's idea of moving Australia's Israeli embassy to contested Jerusalem.

Labor has seized on furious messages sent to Foreign Minister Marise Payne from her Indonesian counterpart, warning moving Australia's Israeli embassy to Jerusalem would be a slap in the face.

A screenshot of the Whatsapp messages, obtained by Seven News, shows a series of terse messages sent by Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

"Is this really necessary to do this on Tuesday," Ms Retno wrote, on the day she was due to meet visiting Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki.

"It will be a really big blow. It will slap Indonesia's face on the Palestine issue. This will affect bilateral relations."

Ms Retno also issued a public warning against the move.

"Indonesia encourages Australia and other nations to continue to support the peace process and not conduct any action that could undermine the peace process and global security," she said.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong was scathing of government for creating the political storm.

"This is the price you pay when you put politics before good government," Senator Wong told reporters on Thursday.

"Scott Morrison is a man who time and time again we have seen puts politics before good government, puts the Liberal Party before the nation, puts his personal political interests before those of Australia."

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi speaks during a summit.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has urged Australia to rethink moving its Israel embassy.

The federal government has played down concerns Mr Morrison's idea to shift the Israeli embassy could affect trade relations with Indonesia, including a soon-to-be-signed deal.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says the government's engagement with its neighbour has carried on as expected.

"Indonesia has made clear on the public record that our agreement with them is on track for finalisation this year," he told reporters on Wednesday.

The trade minister said he doesn't want to prejudge how markets in the Middle East such as Bahrain, Jordan and Saudi Arabia will react.

Meanwhile, Arab ambassadors are also deeply concerned at the idea of moving Australia's Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.

The Council of Arab Ambassadors in Canberra says the move would do nothing to kick-start stalled peace talks between Palestine and Israel.

"That Mr Morrison would seriously entertain the idea of this unilateral move is very worrying," the council said in a statement.

"His assertion that an embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a 'sensible proposal' is certainly regrettable and unhelpful."

Mr Morrison raised the idea of moving the embassy on Tuesday, days from a by-election in one of Australia's most Jewish electorates.

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