RECOGNISING a Palestinian state is now an official part of the platform of Australia’s alternative government.
Shadow foreign affairs minister Penny Wong moved an amendment at the ALP conference on Tuesday elevating the status of a 2018 resolution that “calls on the next Labor government to recognise Palestine as a state and expects that this issue will be an important priority for the next Labor government”.
But in moving the amendment, she implied a future Labor government would not be bound by it.
“It has no greater or lesser weight [than the 2018 conference resolution],” she said. “It reflects our belief that Israelis and Palestinians deserve to prosper in peace behind secure and recognised borders.
“It reflects this conference’s prior expression of its view on statehood, while recognising this is a decision for a future Labor government. An Albanese Labor government will take a principled approach to these issues.”
Insisting Labor’s policy “has not changed at all”, Macnamara Labor MP Josh Burns said, “We remain supporters of a two-state solution and we remain strong and unwavering friends of the State of Israel.”
But Burns’ predecessor Michael Danby – who was to have spoken in support of a withdrawn amendment conditioning recognition upon a Palestinian state meeting certain criteria – claimed party leaders Anthony Albanese and Richard Marles had not only adopted former UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pro-Palestinian policies “but also his Stalinist methods by suppressing debate on the foreign policy motions”.
He added, “This raises significant legal issues about whether the platform adopted is valid.
“Associating Labor with a homophobic, fundamentally undemocratic, kleptocratic, misogynist Palestinian regime is bizarre enough, but attempting to create the false impression that this is accepted by all delegates is worthy of Stalin.
“Today will live in infamy where a significant shift in policy about a scumbag regime was implemented using the same sort of Stalinist thuggish tactics as the Palestinian regime uses.”
Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) co-CEO Peter Wertheim called the recognition outside a negotiated agreement “entirely counterproductive”.
“Which entity is the ALP suggesting is deserving of statehood? The Islamists of Hamas? The PA which continues to incite the murder Jews through their policy of ‘pay to slay’ and ongoing vilification taught to school children?” he asked.
“Recognising a non-existent Palestinian state can only serve to entrench the Palestinian policy of rejectionism of Israel’s right to exist as the state of the Jewish people.”
He continued, “If the ALP is elected to government, Albanese will be under greater pressure than previous leaders to bow to those pushing an extreme line on this.
“Many people, not only in the Jewish community, will feel very let down by this outdated, one-sided approach.”
Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said the platform now calls “for the next Labor government to be a party to a direct violation of an international peace agreement”.
“Pretending that ‘Palestine’ meets the minimum criteria for a state when it manifestly does not is virtue signalling, and would only undermine Australia’s reputation as a law-abiding and pragmatic honest broker,” he said.
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) executive director Colin Rubenstein said offering unilateral recognition of statehood “without suggesting any obligations on the Palestinian side clearly rewards Palestinian intransigence”.
“Given senior shadow cabinet figures have offered assurances that the platform’s language remains non-binding and any future ALP government will make up its own mind on the subject, AIJAC hopes this vote will not unduly hinder the cause of peaceful Israeli–Palestinian coexistence,” he said.
The criteria in the alternative amendment included the PA holding free and fair elections, upholding women’s and LGBTQI+ rights, recognising Israel and renouncing violence and calls for its destruction, and recognition forming part of a negotiated settlement.
In a statement on Thursday afternoon, Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke said Labor recognising the state of Palestine “reduces the incentive for the Palestinian leadership to re-engage in peace talks with Israel and is counterproductive for Middle East peace generally”.
Describing the declaration as “ideologically motivated”, Hawke lamented, “ALP members were not even permitted to speak against the proposal which was endorsed at their national conference this week.
“Given that democracy relies on free and open debate, and with debate forbidden on such an important matter, supporters of Israel and the Australian Jewish community have every right to feel utterly betrayed.”
Wentworth MP and former ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma added, “At a time when Arab states such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are recognising that closer relations with Israel are key to resolving some of the Middle East’s most pressing security challenges, Labor appears to be heading in the other direction — at odds with the region and with contemporary reality.”
- Israeli-Palestinian conflict
- Australian Labor Party (ALP)
- Anthony Albanese
- Penny Wong
- Josh Burns
- Michael Danby
- Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ)
- Peter Wertheim
- Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA)
- Jeremy Leibler
- Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC)
- Colin Rubenstein