Warning for Aussies travelling in Indonesia

Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Canberra set to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital

SYDNEY • Australia yesterday warned citizens to take care while travelling in neighbouring Muslim-majority Indonesia ahead of Canberra's expected but contentious move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce that his government will follow US President Donald Trump's lead and recognise the contested city as Israel's capital.

Scores of Australians preparing to jet off to Bali and other tropical island destinations for the upcoming summer holidays should "exercise a high degree of caution", the Department of Foreign Affairs warned.

Officials in Canberra said they expected the announcement on Jerusalem to come today, the Jewish Sabbath, but cautioned that events could yet alter those plans.

Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.

Critics say declaring Jerusalem the capital of either inflames tensions and prejudges the outcome of final status peace talks.

Mr Morrison is expected to stop short of actually shifting Australia's diplomatic corps to the Holy City, amid warnings from his own officials about the cost and security implications.

 
 
 

But recognising Jerusalem would help the embattled Australian PM - who faces the prospect of an election drubbing next year - with Jewish and conservative Christian voters and win him friends in the White House.

His supporters argue Israel has the right to choose its own capital and peace talks are dead in the water, so there is no peace to prejudge.

But the move still risks heightening unrest, both in Australia's immediate neighbour Indonesia - the world's most populous Muslim nation - and further afield.

The Palestinian government would press for Arab and Muslim states to "withdraw their ambassadors" and take some "meat and wheat" style "economic boycott measures" if the move went ahead, Palestinian ambassador to Australia Izzat Abdulhadi said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce that his government will follow US President Donald Trump's lead and recognise the contested city as Israel's capital.

Indonesia's government, facing domestic pressure at home, had reacted angrily earlier this year. The issue has put the conclusion of a bilateral trade agreement on hold.

"Demonstrations have been held in recent weeks around the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and the Australian Consulate-General in Surabaya," Australia's foreign ministry warned in a public notice yesterday.

"Protests may continue at the Embassy in Jakarta or at any of Australia's consulates-general in Surabaya, Bali and Makassar," itsaid. "Exercise a high degree of caution."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2018, with the headline 'Warning for Aussies travelling in Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe