BY PRIMROSE RIORDAN AND BRAD NORINGTON
July 4, 2017
Acting federal Labor leader Tanya Plibersek has snubbed a push by her party’s NSW branch to give Palestine unqualified recognition as a state, sticking with the federal ALP’s pro-Israel policy endorsed by Bill Shorten.
Ms Plibersek yesterday dismissed a resolution that the ALP’s largest state conference is expected to pass this month as just “discussions at a state level” — despite the Palestinian delegation to Australia declaring it significantly strengthened its negotiating position for statehood.
Palestinian delegation head Izzat Abdulhadi said the anticipated vote by the NSW ALP conference would be a significant step towards a binding Labor Party resolution recognising Palestine at its national conference next year. Mr Abdulhadi said the NSW party vote would be a “serious and substantial step” and send a strong message to Israel that its “illegal settlements” in Palestinian territories were the main obstacle to peace.
The strongly worded NSW party motion — while noting previous resolutions at state conferences in 2015 and 2016 — “urges the next Labor government to recognise Palestine”.
It is regarded within senior Labor ranks as the template for enshrining official recognition for Palestine at the 2018 national party conference. If passed nationally, it would compel Labor to go to the next federal election with a revamped policy, a break with the past on a matter of bipartisanship with the Coalition.
Ms Plibersek’s support yesterday for the status quo comes despite past comments critical of Israel. During the Iraq war debate in 2002 she called Israel a “rogue state” that consistently ignored UN resolutions, and branded its then leader Ariel Sharon a “war criminal”. She has since said she no longer holds such views.
Victorian Labor backbencher Michael Danby yesterday lashed out at Mr Carr, accusing him of being behind the NSW motion giving unconditional recognition of a Palestinian state.
Mr Danby, who is Jewish, accused Mr Carr, now head of the Australian China Relations Institute at University of Technology Sydney, of orchestrating the change and being “gutless” for not being open about his role.
Federal Labor’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian issue states it supports a two-state solution — but only commits the party in government to “discuss” joining like-minded nations in recognising a Palestinian state if there is no progress in peace talks.
Mr Carr was a “special guest” last Tuesday at a NSW ALP federal electorate council policy forum on Palestine, hosted by Mr Albanese and Mr Burke at Sydney’s Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL.
NSW party opponents of the Israel-Palestine policy change said Mr Carr had been acting behind the scenes since his appearance with Mr Albanese and Mr Burke, lobbying for resolution support at this month’s conference. Mr Carr declined to comment on Mr Danby’s attacks. Mr Albanese and Mr Burke were not available.
Senior sources backing them said there was no secret about the stand all three had taken to cabinet as ministers in the Labor government in November 2012, as detailed in Mr Carr’s book Diary of a Foreign Minister. Mr Albanese had “always” backed a change to Labor’s position, while Mr Burke spoke in support at the latest national conference.
Mr Abdulhadi said NSW Labor’s move, which follows resolutions passed by Tasmanian and Queensland ALP branch conferences, was a “bold response” to the continuation of Israel’s settlements’ activities and gave hope that a sovereign state was possible.
“Australian recognition of state of Palestine will strengthen the negotiation position of the Palestinian side and accordingly the possibility to reach an equitable, sustainable and durable peace will be realistic and reachable,” he said.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies executive director Vic Alhadeff said any decision toward a substantial shift in Israel-Palestine policy at a national level sent a “dangerous message” in breaking away from the only rule-of-law democracy in the Middle East
Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said the party had long supported, and continued to support, a two-state solution, and the NSW motion would not determine the position of the federal party.