Growing internal pressures on Shorten over Israel policy – February 2017

Filed under: Politics, Australian Politics, Foreign Affairs,

The imminent visit of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has created unexpected pressure on Labor leader, Bill Shorten, to commit the ALP to the diplomatic recognition of Palestine.

It was sparked by former prime minister Bob Hawke with an article in the Financial Review arguing that it was time to recognise the state of Palestine because the humanitarian principles underpinning the Jewish state were being “trashed by the inexorable expansion of ... settlement in the West Bank”.

Then two former Labor foreign ministers, Gareth Evans and Bob Carr, joined Mr Hawke in arguing forcefully for policy change.

They told Guardian Australia that Australia should grant diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine because Mr Netanyahu’s aggressive settlement building risked creating the conditions for an “apartheid state”.

“The situation is clear – starkly clear,” Mr Hawke wrote. “Like the Jews in the Soviet Union and the blacks in South Africa, the Palestinian has an aspiration to be fully free. But, with a majority of the Netanyahu government openly declared against a Palestine state, they understandably see little hope in the political process.”

He said Australia needed to do what 137 other nations had already done – grant diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine.

Mr Shorten faces substantial internal pressure to adopt a more pro-Palestine policy stance, with senior members of the NSW right faction lining up with the left in supporting diplomatic recognition.

Labor has been moving in the direction of adopting a more pro-Palestinian stance since 2012, with the ALP national conference in in July 2015 passing the strongest resolution yet seen at the national level.

A spokesman for Mr Shorten said: “Mr Shorten supports a two-state solution and is hopeful this can be progressed through the peace process.”

Mr Carr said more urgent action was required because of Israel’s provocative conduct. He said he fully supported Mr Hawke’s call on diplomatic recognition because “with Israel committed to constant settlement expansion, the prospect of a Palestinian state is being submerged”.

He said if the hardliners achieved their objective, if Israel “becomes a greater Israel with a majority of Arab citizens, it will become an apartheid state, it will not be a democracy unless Arabs are given the right to vote”.

Carr pointed to the resolution passed at the last federal Labor conference that puts Labor on the pathway to diplomatic recognition if poor behaviour by Israel jeopardised the peace process. He said it was abundantly clear bad behaviour had “gone on”.

Mr Evans mounted similar arguments. “The demographic reality is sooner or later ... Jews will be outnumbered by Palestinians and if democracy is to prevail Israel will lose its Jewish identity.

“If it is to maintain that identity ... the only alternative to recognising a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza is to become an apartheid state.”

Parliament will not be sitting during Mr Netanyahu’s visit.

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