No Palestine Labor change

‘An important outcome that was achieved through hard work’

Labor's federal conference came and went without any changes in the party's position on recognising a Palestinian state.

Delegates at Labor's federal conference. Photo: Facebook
Delegates at Labor's federal conference. Photo: Facebook

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday assured The AJN he is “a strong supporter of Israel”, days after Labor’s federal conference came and went without any changes in the party’s position on recognising a Palestinian state.

An internal agreement was reached ahead of voting at the conference on Friday to preserve the status quo, with all amendments withdrawn.

Two speakers addressed the issue. Former senior vice-president of the NSW Labor Party and Labor Israel Action Committee member Michael Easson told delegates, “There can be no peace without justice, but equally there can be no justice without truth.

“Viewing the conflict from a one-eyed perspective will not achieve peace.”

Lauding Israel’s “vibrant democracy” where protesters can take to the streets and trade union and religious rights are respected, he expressed, “This too is also hopefully the future for Palestinians.”

A Labor source told The AJN the opposing perspective, from Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman, was “rationally debated”.

Member for Macnamara Josh Burns said it was “an important outcome that was achieved through hard work and the efforts of many friends of the Jewish community inside the ALP”.

“There are many hard working activists inside the party dedicated to ensuring the strength of the relationship between Australia and Israel,” he said.

“I thank the community leadership for their constructive engagement with myself and the government.”

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) was pleased there was no change.

“This is the first National Conference since 2015 where there has not been a further move towards unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state,” the ECAJ said. “We warmly welcome the excellent speech delivered by Michael Easson, a highly principled and deeply informed Labor activist.

“The truth that this government must accept is that recognition of a state that does not exist is not the expression of solidarity or of a desire for peace. It is a dangerous falsehood which rewards the Palestinians for their refusal to negotiate an end to the conflict, recognise a Jewish state or renounce violence and terrorism.”

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said, “We are pleased the ALP’s national conference has resulted in no further change to Labor’s position on recognition of Palestine.

“Foreign Minister Penny Wong has said on numerous occasions that a decision as to whether Australia should recognise Palestine is up to government, and not a party conference. We also note Senator Wong’s repeated comments that the government should not take unilateral positions on final status issues, and we expect the government to remain consistent in this regard.”

Earlier this month, Wong announced that the government would now use the term “Occupied Palestinian Territories” to describe all territories conquered by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and label all settlements in the West Bank as “illegal”. The change in language was seen by many as a way to deal with the Israeli–Palestinian issue before the conference.

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) executive director Colin Rubenstein said the conference outcome was “positive, given the circumstances”.

“Given the government’s recent misguided and misconceived policy changes on Australia’s stance toward the West Bank and Jerusalem, which will only encourage continued Palestinian intransigence and refusal to negotiate with Israel … any additional changes to the ALP’s stance on ‘Palestine’ would have been especially unwelcome and counter-productive,” he said.

“Constructively, the ALP leadership and party as a whole were able to resist the demands of the extremists and ideologues pushing to recognise ‘Palestine’ as a state without the Palestinian leadership agreeing to a negotiated two-state peace agreement.”

Noting that Wong had repeatedly stressed final status issues need to be settled by negotiations between the two parties, he added, “We hope and expect that the ALP government will continue to avoid further policy changes which contradict or disrupt this vital stance.”

Labor Israel Action Committee (LIAC) patron Marjorie O’Neill thanked Albanese and Wong “for preventing any change to Labor’s position on Israel and Palestine, which was supported unanimously”.

“All speakers in the debate reaffirmed the parties’ support for a two-state solution with secure and recognised borders,” she said.

“I am grateful for the groundswell of support from the trade union movement, in particular the SDA and AWU and rank and file delegates.”

Australia–Israel Labor Dialogue co-convenor Adam Slonim said, “It was heartening to see and hear a rational debate inside conference.”

In 2021, a motion “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” was elevated to Labor’s platform.

A motion calling on the federal government “to recognise the Palestinian state within the term of this Parliament” passed at Labor’s Victorian state conference in June.

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