(JTA) — Australia’s potential move of its embassy to Jerusalem was left in doubt after the Liberal government lost its one-seat majority following a defeat in a special election for Parliament.
Dave Sharma, the former ambassador to Israel, was beaten Saturday in the vote to fill a vacant House of Representatives seat near Sydney. Independent Party candidate Kerry Phelps, a convert to Judaism, won the Wentworth seat, which has gone traditionally to the Liberal Party. Wentworth is home to a Jewish community of 20,000, or 12.5 percent of its population.
Days before the election, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had announced that he was considering officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the Australian Embassy there. Morrison had credited Sharma with suggesting the embassy move, a major departure from Australia’s foreign policy on Israel.
Critics suggested that Morrison was playing politics with the announcement by pandering to the Jewish community in order to maintain his one-seat majority.
The seat was open following the resignation in August of Malcolm Turnbull, a Liberal lawmaker and former prime minister who was replaced by Morrison.