Hanging Israel out to dry
'Regret and rebuke'

Hanging Israel out to dry

'Corbyn factor' well and truly alive in the ALP

Foreign Minister Penny Wong. Photo: Peter Haskin
Foreign Minister Penny Wong. Photo: Peter Haskin

Readers of this publication would know that prior to the last federal election, members of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s then opposition were reassuring Australia’s Jewish community that, should Labor form government, their support for Israel would be no different to that of the Coalition.

In January 2016, Mr Albanese advocated for a “balanced position”. He said that an Australian government should “not be a cheer squad for one side or the other, because frankly that just reinforces the hawks on one side or the other”.

“What Australia needs to do is to be on the side of the doves, both Palestinian and Israeli,” he said, “not the hawks, because that does not serve the interests of either Israel or Palestine.”

More recently in May 2022 Mr Albanese said, “Labor governments have always understood that any just and lasting resolution to the Middle East conflict cannot be at the expense of either Palestinians or Israelis.”

Yet after Labor came to power in April last year, it took the Albanese government just under five months to break yet another promise.

Following leaks from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Foreign Minister’s Office strenuously denied that the government was changing Australia’s position on recognising west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Hours later, Foreign Minister Penny Wong put out a press release announcing the government’s change of position in what was one of the most ham-fisted foreign policy u-turns and indelicate diplomacy determinations in Australia’s history. To add insult to injury, the decision came on the holy day of Simchat Torah – and without any consultation with Israel or Australia’s Jewish communities.

If that decision more than nine months ago exposed Labor’s true colours on Israel, then the government’s recent announcement leaves no question in the mind of any Australian that the Albanese government is no friend of Israel.

In recent weeks, factional forces within Labor saw its caucus agree to again recognise “occupied Palestinian territories”. The declaration establishes an Australian government position that Israel’s West Bank settlements are, according to Minister Wong, “illegal under international law”. Despite Minister Wong previously criticising unilateral decisions, this was, once again, a decision made devoid of any consultation.

It is incumbent on the government to explain the position it has taken, including the implications on key motions Australia has made – and will make – as part of United Nations proceedings as well as any changes to our diplomatic presence in Tel Aviv.

The Coalition unconditionally condemns this latest ill-considered move from Labor which not only sets back Australia’s bilateral relationship with Israel but also undermines the Australian government’s previous position of advancing a lasting two-state solution where Israel and Palestine can co-exist in peace and security with internationally recognised borders.

As my Liberal colleague Julian Leeser has pointed out, Labor’s decision “will only embolden and please organisations that we in this country have listed as terrorist organisations like Palestinian Jihad”.

Labor’s decision comes ahead of its national conference in Brisbane this week where the hard left and militant union elements of the party will likely push for recognition of the Palestinian state. These radical elements within the Labor Party have cynically and continuously sought to deny the right of the State of Israel to exist. The “Jeremy Corbyn factor” is well and truly alive in the Australian Labor Party today.

My Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Birmingham, rightly said that many nations recognise the territories as “disputed” and that other characterisations – including declarations of illegality – hinder rather than help a peaceful two-state outcome.

Quite clearly, the Albanese government’s foreign policy is being dictated by the extreme elements of the Labor Party. Instead of courageously standing up to the hard left of his own party on such unreasonable foreign policy positions, Mr Albanese’s weak and insouciant response shows he is simply one of them. A leopard never changes its spots.

In denouncing the Albanese government’s position on Israel, the Coalition also expresses concern for Australia’s 100,000-strong Jewish community. The government’s advocacy for such imprudent and ideologically-charged positions can fuel the fire of antisemitism which is sadly already rife across the globe and on our own shores.

The Prime Minister is hanging out Israel – our closest ally in the Middle East – to dry, and all to avoid an embarrassing fight at the forthcoming Labor Party National Conference.

He has taken a unilateral decision to redraw Israel’s borders. It is absolutely inappropriate that our foreign policy is being determined in this way. It sends the worst possible message to one of our closest friends and allies in Israel. I think the Jewish community in Australia would be quite shocked to learn that the Prime Minister has sold them out for a backroom deal with Labor’s left wing factional heavyweights. And I think it speaks volumes about the Prime Minister’s character that he is willing to walk away from a very stable relationship and one that we really have a great deal of respect for. He has many questions to answer.

The Coalition expresses its regret and rebuke at the Albanese government’s decisions on Israel which have compromised rather than consolidated Australia’s foreign relations and social cohesion.

Peter Dutton is the federal Opposition Leader.

read more: