State of confusion

State of confusion

Gareth Narunsky – AJN – Thursday 11 March 2021

SHADOW foreign affairs minister Penny Wong has assured that “Labor has always been and remains a strong friend and supporter of the State of Israel. That will never change,” in the face of a storm over its policy on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

It comes as a 2018 ALP federal conference resolution calling on the next Labor government to recognise Palestine as a state was included as a “statement in detail” in a draft platform for the party’s Special Platform Conference at the end of this month.

It remains non-binding on an actual future Labor government.

“Labor supports an enduring and just two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the right of Israel to live in peace within secure borders internationally recognised and agreed by the parties, and reflecting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to also live in peace and security within their own state,” Senator Wong told The AJN this week.

The 2018 resolution reiterated this position and “reflected the desire of the conference to recognise Palestine as a state”, while also making clear it was up to a future Labor government, she said.

The inclusion of the resolution – which was omitted from earlier versions of the draft platform – led to The Australian speculating that Labor is preparing to officially recognise a Palestinian state.

The Liberal Friends of Israel concurred this week with an op-ed written by former Jewish Labor MP Michael Danby, who claimed there were far more pressing issues the party needed to address, and by prioritising the Palestinian cause, it was making itself unelectable.

The policy would put Australia out of step with other Western nations and allies, the Liberal Friends noted. Liberal Senator James Paterson said Labor is “following a dangerously similar path to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the UK, and failing to support Israel when it really counts”.

But Danby’s Jewish successor, Macnamara MP Josh Burns, countered, “There is no change to the Australian Labor Party policy on Israel-Palestine … We remain a steadfast friend and supporter of the Jewish State.”

Another Jewish Labor MP, shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus, said it “remains a bipartisan issue in the Australian Parliament and is unchanged from the policy we took to the last election”.

But while expressing hope it would not bind a future Labor government, Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein cautioned introducing the language to the platform would “hinder rather than help” Israelis and Palestinians who genuinely seek coexistence.

“Adopting such a stance appears particularly difficult to understand in the wake of last year’s landmark Abraham Accords,” he said.

“These transformative agreements are opening up new avenues for peacemaking, provided outdated ideas are not allowed to stifle this opportunity.”

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler added the “only path to peace” is the resumption of negotiations, and recognising a Palestinian state in their absence “imposes pressure only on Israel and discourages both parties from making any compromises”.

“We acknowledge comments made by Penny Wong, which reinforced the ALP’s long-term commitment to a two-state solution and support for Israel’s right to exist within secure and recognised borders,” he said.

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