PETALING JAYA: Hailing Israel as a “sibling pluralist democracy”, former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has urged Canberra to ignore a warning by Dr Mahathir Mohamad against its plans to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state.
“However much we take seriously our large Muslim neighbours, neither Indonesia nor Malaysia have ever been accustomed to dictate our policy,” Abbott told Australia’s Sky News.
His remarks come three days after Mahathir brought up the issue during his meeting with his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison in Singapore.
“I pointed out that in dealing with terrorism, one has to know the causes,” Mahathir said of his meeting.
“Adding to the cause for terrorism is not going to be helpful.”
A similar caution was sounded by Indonesia, who said any move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel could upset plans for a free trade agreement with Australia.
Morrison had floated the idea of moving the Australian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in October, when his Liberal Party was facing a by-election in Wentworth, which has a large Jewish electorate. Morrison’s party however lost the seat, its first defeat there.
Israel regards Jerusalem, the city considered sacred by Muslims, Christians and Jews, as its “eternal capital”.
Abbott said Australia’s support for Israel should not be stopped by the “rhetorical backlash” from its Asian Muslim neighbours.
“We should make our decisions based on our national interests and our national values.
“And why shouldn’t we be showing solidarity with the only functioning liberal pluralist democracy in the Middle East, by supporting them and putting our embassy in their capital?” he reportedly said.