Peter Dutton says Labor’s handling of Australia’s recognition of West Jerusalem was “ham-fisted” and undermines trust in the Albanese government.
Diplomatic tensions have erupted after Labor reversed a 2018 Morrison government policy recognising West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reverting to Tel Aviv.
The decision has been welcomed by Palestinian advocates in Australia.
But it blindsided leaders of the local Jewish community and was announced on a religious holy day when the Israeli embassy in Canberra was closed.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong announced the policy reversal just hours after she had said the government’s position had not changed, prompting the Opposition Leader to claim Labor had “lied” and “deceived” people.
“There’s no other way that you can describe it,” Mr Dutton told 2GB on Thursday.
“They’re saying one thing, one hour and the complete opposite the next hour … and I think that’s really what has startled most people.
“It goes against what they say and goes to the question of whether you can trust them, to announce it on a day when the embassy was closed.”
Mr Dutton said Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid had given a “brutal assessment” of Anthony Albanese in response to the decision.
Mr Lapid criticised the move as “hasty” and said he was “deeply disappointed” by it.
He said in a statement that Jerusalem was the “eternal and united capital of Israel and nothing will ever change that”.
“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,” Mr Lapid said.
His foreign ministry has called the Australian ambassador to a meeting to demand an explanation.
The Australian Prime Minister is standing by his government’s decision but he conceded on Wednesday it could have been handled better.
“Of course some things can always be done better, but the truth is we have been very clear about what our position was,” Mr Albanese said.
The decision was signed off at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday only a few hours after the government publicly denied it had changed the policy.
Announcing the decision, Senator Wong said Labor was fulfilling a commitment to reverse a “cynical” policy that had “put Australia out of step with the majority of the international community”.
She stressed Australia remained a “steadfast friend of Israel” and the Jewish community in Australia.
“We are equally unwavering in our support of the Palestinian people including in the provision of humanitarian support,” she told reporters on Tuesday.
Senator Wong accused former prime minister Scott Morrison of announcing the 2018 policy in a bid to curry favour with Jewish voters in that year’s by-election in Sydney’s Wentworth electorate.
Senator Wong said Australia remained committed to the “two-state solution” in which Israel and a recognised Palestinian state would peacefully coexist with defined and internationally acknowledged borders.