Teal MPs deeply polarised over Israel attack

Parliament’s crossbench has divided over the crisis in Israel after two Sydney teal MPs joined the Greens to back a motion accusing Israel of war crimes.

Greens leader Adam Bandt’s proposed change to a motion condemning deadly attacks in Israel 10 days ago labelled the anticipated future deployment of Israeli troops as a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

It also denounced “war crimes perpetrated by the State of Israel” and deleted a sentence stating that Australia “stands with Israel and recognises its inherent right to defend itself”.

Independent MPs Kylea Tink, Sophie Scamps and Andrew Wilkie joined the Greens in voting for the amendment, which was defeated in a vote in the House by 107 to 7.

The MPs then voted to pass the original motion condemning the Hamas terrorist attacks and declaring support for Israel.

Teals divided

The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies accused the MPs of turning their backs on the Jewish communities in their electorates.

Fellow Independents Allegra Spender, Monique Ryan and Zoe Daniel  distanced themselves from the vote.

The teal MPs are battling to find common ground on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“I disagree emphatically with those who supported the amendment,” Daniel said.

“Among other things, the effect of the amendment would have been to remove support for Israel’s right to self-defence.”

Scamps said she stood “unequivocally” for Israel, but voted to recognise that innocent Palestinian lives were being lost.

Australia’s response to the attack on Israel has been deeply polarised, even as US and Australian intelligence agencies warned of the risk of “spontaneous violence” in Australia, linked to tensions in Israel.

“We do see a direct correlation between language that inflames tension and out of that tension does grow a small number of people who think violence is the answer,” ASIO boss Mike Burgess said on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the Victorian Greens followed their NSW counterparts by voting against a motion to condemn Hamas over the massacre of 1400 Israelis a little more than a week ago, most of them civilians.

Wong cancels Asia trip

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has cancelled a planned visit to Asia this week to oversee the government’s response to the crisis in Gaza.

But the office of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is refusing to answer questions about whether he will convene a meeting of the national security committee.

The PM has previously convened the cabinet committee after the government moved to cancel a lease on a site being developed into a new Russian Embassy.

In a sign of tensions within the Labor caucus over the issue, West Australian Senator Fatima Payman broke ranks and called for an “immediate ceasefire” and warned of the civilian death toll.

The more than 200 Australians fleeing the conflict were scheduled to arrive in Sydney from Israel aboard a Qatar Airways flight overnight.

US President Joe Biden will visit Israel on Wednesday in a show of solidarity as the international community expresses concern about the human cost of an impending invasion on impossibly challenging terrain.

“How Israel does this matters,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Hamas video

Hamas is holding 199 hostages, and this week released a video of one, Mia Schem, a 21-year-old student who was abducted from a music festival in southern Israel.

It has threatened to execute hostages in live broadcasts in the event of civilian deaths.

And yet, during the 16 years it has been in power in Gaza, Hamas has regularly used civilians as human shields or health facilities, schools and mosques to store military materiel or as command posts in a strategy aimed at influencing international public opinion.

It has built a network of tunnels underneath the streets of Gaza, limiting the effectiveness of air strikes.

Palestinian officials said Israel’s bombardment had killed 2750 people.

Israel has asked civilians to clear out of north Gaza in preparation for a strike on Hamas artillery installations.

More than a million people have left their homes.

Neighbouring Egypt has agreed to allow dual-national Palestinians to exit the territory, but it has shown no willingness to take an influx of refugees from Gaza. Nor has Jordan.

Iran’s Foreign Minister warned that Islamist militants Hizbollah could resort to “pre-emptive” attacks against Israel in “the coming hours”.

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