The Albanese government’s flip-flopping over a decision to reverse Australia’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has been called the “most significant mistake” made in years by the opposition leader.
The Liberal-National party’s Peter Dutton told journalists at a press conference in the Northern Territory on Oct. 19 called the federal Labor government’s behaviour one of the biggest “foreign affairs blunders in many years.”
“This really is a very significant mistake that’s been made by [Foreign Minister] Penny Wong and [Prime Minister] Anthony Albanese,” Dutton said.
“They lied about it, they deceived people in relation to the decision-making process. Obviously, words went up on the website that they didn’t know about, and their first response was to cover it up,” he said.
“To damage our relations with a very important partner and ally in Israel is unforgivable, and I think the government really should be held to account for that.”
Dutton also said how Foreign Minister Penny Wong “instinctively reacted” by blaming the Coalition demonstrated the extent of the cover up.
“I think Penny Wong has tripped over her own feet. It has damaged our relations with Israel, and that is deeply regrettable, to say the least. The sooner that the government is able to clean up this mess, the better,” he said.
Israeli PM Criticises Australian Governments Decision
The criticism from Dutton comes after the Australian government was criticised on social media by Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lipid, who took to Twitter to admonish the Australian government for what he saw as a hasty and unprofessional response.
“In light of the way this decision was made in Australia, as a hasty response to an incorrect report in the media, we can only hope that the Australian government manages other matters more seriously and professionally,” he said.
He said Jerusalem was “the eternal and united capital of Israel, and nothing will ever change that.”
Prime Minister Lapid in response to Australia’s announcement:
“In light of the way this decision was made in Australia, as a hasty response to an incorrect report in the media, we can only hope that the Australian government manages other matters more seriously and professionally
— Prime Minister of Israel (@IsraeliPM) October 18, 2022
According to the Jerusalem Post, the Australian Ambassador Paul Griffiths has been called in by the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Political Director Aliza Bin-Noun, who told Griffiths the “miserable decision” ignored the “deep and eternal connection between Israel and its historic capital and that goes against the good relations between Israel and Australia.”
Labor MPs Upset By Move
The change has not just upset Israel and Australia’s Jewish community; it also has upset Labor Party members.
Labor MP Josh Burns, who is Jewish, has criticised the policy change by his party leaders, saying in a statement posted on Twitter that it was disappointing.
“I didn’t like the Morrison government playing politics with these sensitive issues, and it’s my view any further alteration to Australia’s policy needed to be considered extremely carefully … to my disappointment, this did not happen,” he wrote.
“People in my electorate and across Australia are hurt by this decision, and to be honest, so am I.”
Statement on Jerusalem. pic.twitter.com/M2PAAHv8qT
— Josh Burns (@joshburnsmp) October 19, 2022
Burns said he would now focus on rebuilding trust between the federal Labor government and Australia’s Jewish community.
Prime Minister Admits Policy Change Could Have Been Handled Better
The Australian prime minister admitted in a radio interview with ABC on Oct 19 that the policy change could have been done better.
“Of course, some things can always be done better. But the truth is that we have been very clear about what our position was,” Prime Minister Albanese said.
Albanese also tried to deflect the policy change back onto the former government and accused them of being duplicitous.
“They said that the embassy would move, and, of course, it didn’t move. So they made an announcement, and once the by-election was over, the embassy didn’t move. There hadn’t been any effective change; the Australian Embassy remained in Tel Aviv,” he said.