"Australia has raised the prospect of following the United States by relocating its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in a policy shift that critics described Tuesday as a desperate grab for domestic political gain to win a crucial by-election.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the idea was suggested to him by a former ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, who is a candidate for the ruling conservative Liberal Party in a by-election Saturday in a Sydney electorate with a large Jewish population.
At stake is the government's single-seat majority in the House of Representatives and Morrison's ability to retain power without doing deals with independent lawmakers.
Any political gain could come at the cost of strained ties with Muslim-majority countries including neighboring Indonesia, whose foreign minister expressed strong concern.
In May, the Trump administration turned its back on decades of U.S. policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv. The decision angered the Muslim world and was a setback for Palestinian aspirations for statehood. Palestinians see East Jerusalem as their future capital under the two-state framework for ending the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Morrison said Australia remained committed to finding a two-state solution.
"When sensible suggestions are put forward that are consistent with your policy positioning and in this case pursuing a two-state solution, Australia should be open-minded to this and I am open-minded to this and our government is open-minded to this," Morrison told reporters.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had recently spoken to Morrison and welcomed the Australian policy shift.
Morrison "informed me that he is considering officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel & moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem. I'm very thankful to him for this," Netanyahu tweeted. "We will continue to strengthen ties." #headlines