DELEGATES to the 47th national Australian Labor Party conference in Melbourne could pass a resolution placing the Opposition on the express lane to recognising a Palestinian state.
The AJN understands there are three possible motions regarding Israel and a Palestinian state that could be put forward on Sunday morning at the federal conference. The motions have been formulated by the right wing of the NSW Labor Party, the right wing of the Victorian Labor Party and the left wing of the federal party.
The AJN understands that five pro-Palestinian groups have been lobbying for the passing of the motion from the NSW right, which is believed to be backed by senior Labor frontbencher Tony Burke. What remains unclear is whether such a resolution would be addressed ahead of the July 24-26 conference or tested on the conference floor.
Burke is expected to propose a resolution stating that if “there is no progress to a two-state solution, and Israel continues to build and expand settlements, a future Labor government will consult like-minded nations towards recognition of the Palestinian state”.
In April, former ALP foreign minister Bob Carr said party leader Bill Shorten had given the go-ahead to Burke, commissioning him to move the motion at the conference, based on “movement in party sympathies” after three state ALP conferences passed similar motions.
Carr’s claims were denied at the time by Shorten’s office, with a senior ALP figure telling The AJN that the story was “absolutely” and “utterly” untrue and Shorten was privately angry at Carr’s manoeuvring.
Meanwhile, a leading group within the ALP – comprising Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby; Mike Kelly, foreign affairs adviser to Shorten; shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus; shadow defence minister Stephen Conroy; and former NSW Labor Council secretary Michael Easson – is believed to be working on a formula to minimise a proposed change of direction by the ALP on Palestinian statehood.
Danby told The AJN on Wednesday: “The Labor Party’s very longstanding support for the State of Israel is both well known and worth celebrating. Although statements made by Israeli Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu during the heat of the recent Israeli election campaign were unhelpful, like many others I believe that any unilateral recognition of the non-existent state of Palestine would be shortsighted and antithetical to the cause of peace.”
Contacted by The AJN this week, Shorten’s office – and the office of shadow foreign minister Tanya Plibersek – did not comment before going to press. Plibersek last year, however, told The AJN the federal party’s stance “hasn’t changed” after NSW Labor voted to adopt a resolution similar to the one expected to be proposed by Burke.
Former Queensland premier Peter Beattie – who chairs the Australia-Israel Labor Dialogue (AILD), which promotes cooperation between the ALP and its Labour counterpart in Israel – said at AILD’s launch in February that there was an “annoying lack of sensible dialogue in the ALP” on Israel.
Zionist Federation of Australia president Dr Danny Lamm said any resolution recognising Palestinian statehood “would only set back possibilities of successful direct negotiation” between Israel and the Palestinians.
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Dr Colin Rubenstein said he hoped “the many constructive forces of principle will prevail over those elements engaged in counterproductive political opportunism, factual misrepresentation and even malice”.