Indonesian officials have threatened to “adjust” policies towards Australia if the Morrison government decides to move Australia’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The warnings from officials in the Indonesian foreign ministry and ministry of defence – first reported by ABC’s AM – add to a growing backlash from 13 Middle Eastern and north African nations and the Palestinian National Authority against the Coalition’s plan to reconsider the location of the embassy.
On Thursday Guardian Australia reported that the Australian spy agency, Asio, had warned the government the proposed shift may “provoke protest, unrest and possibly some violence in Gaza and the West Bank”.
The leak of that Asio bulletin has been referred to the Australian federal police for investigation, as Scott Morrison continues to defend his plan by arguing there is no evidence “at this time” of any planned violence as a result of the announcement.
An Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman, Arrmanatha Nasir, said “the issue of Palestine is very important to Indonesia and the people of Indonesia”.
“Of course we will adjust our policy or our actions depending on the situation but again, I will not even try to predict what actions we will take,” he told ABC’s AM.
Brigadier General Totok Sugiharto, an Indonesian defence ministry spokesman, said Australia and Indonesia’s defence cooperation commitment “will continue … for the time being”.
“Of course it will be the subject for review in the future – [to determine] whether this cooperation is beneficial for both parties.”
The interventions follow comments from Australia’s former deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, that the government has “got to be careful” not to imperil trade relationships with Middle Eastern countries and Indonesia with any move.
On Friday Morrison insisted that everyday Australians do care about whether the embassy in Israel is located in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.
Morrison argued that voters want Australia to have “its own voice” on foreign policy.
“We can’t be told by other countries around the world about what our views are,” he told the Nine Network. “I think it is an important question of sovereignty for Australia.”
“If you are telling me that I’m not allowed to raise a question about an issue as significant as peace in the Middle East … then that doesn’t make us an independent nation.”
On Thursday Guardian Australia reported the contents of an Asio bulletin, marked secret, AUSTEO (Australian eyes only), circulated on 15 October – the day before Morrison’s announcement of the proposed embassy move – that notes that the putative shift would “attract international attention”.
According to Fairfax Media, the head of Asio, Duncan Lewis, has spoken to the AFP boss, Andrew Colvin, and formally referred the leak of the bulletin for investigation.