Hamas, Papua New Guinea opposition protest Pacific country’s Jerusalem embassy

Harlyne Joku
Port Moresby
Hamas, Papua New Guinea opposition protest Pacific country’s Jerusalem embassy Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape (left) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a ceremony in Jerusalem for the opening of Papua New Guinea’s embassy, Sept. 5, 2023.
PNG Prime Minister’s Office

Papua New Guinea’s opening of an embassy in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem has been condemned by Palestinian officials and by the Pacific island country’s opposition leader, who said it was a reckless move.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape and other officials visited Israel earlier this week for the embassy ceremony, which was attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It makes the Pacific nation one of only five countries including the United States to have an embassy in Jerusalem. 

“We have aroused the ire of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas has warned us in the strongest possible terms that PNG must reconsider that decision and move out,” opposition leader Joseph Lelang said on Friday. “This is a serious warning and I feel for the foreign mission staff and the ambassador who will be based there.” 

Most nations do not recognize Israel’s control over Jerusalem and want its status to be decided by negotiations as part of the two-state solution to the decades-old Middle East conflict between the Palestinians and Israel. Palestinians claim the east of the holy city as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Marape on Tuesday said the decision to open the embassy was based on Papua New Guinea’s Christian principles and worldview that emanate from Judaism.

“For us to call ourself Christian, paying respect to God will not be complete without recognizing that Jerusalem is the universal capital of the people and nation of Israel,” he said in a video of the ceremony released by the Israeli government’s public relations office..

The United States moved its Israel embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in 2018 during the administration of President Donald Trump. Kosovo, Guatemala and Honduras are the other nations with embassies in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, said the embassy opening was a “blatant violation” of international law and United Nations resolutions that recognize Jerusalem as an occupied city.

Papua New Guinean authorities should “immediately backtrack on this reprehensible decision,” Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qasem said.

The Palestinian foreign ministry said Papua New Guinea’s government was involved in “an aggression against the Palestinian people and their rights,” Turkey’s state news agency reported. 

It warned that the move would cause "great harm to the chances of achieving peace on the basis of a two-state solution."

Trade between Israel and Papua New Guinea, the most populous Pacific island nation with more than nine million people, currently is negligible. 

Marape said he hopes Papua New Guinea, which grapples with poverty and tribal violence, will benefit from Israel’s technological expertise in the areas of agriculture, education, finance and infrastructure. 

He said land in the country’s capital Port Moresby will be allocated for an Israel-Papua New Guinea special economic zone. 

The embassy is in a high-rise office building and is funded by Israel in an unusual arrangement, Australian broadcaster ABC reported.


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