PM, senior Labor MPs back Wong on Palestine

Penny Wong on Palestine

Source: Nine News

The Prime Minister and other Labor heavyweights have backed a renewed push by Foreign Minister Penny Wong to recognise Palestinian statehood.

Wong advanced the idea on Tuesday, signalling a hardening of Australia’s stance on the conflict in the region, where Israel’s war against Hamas militants in Gaza has left up to a million people facing starvation.

In a speech at the Australian National University, she said a secure and prosperous future for both Israel and Palestinians could come only with a two-state solution.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government had always sought a two-state solution and that “nothing has changed in our position”.

“The issue of a two-state solution is one that Australia has had for a long period of time,” he said.

“Indeed, in statements we have made, we have consistently said that we need a long-term political solution in the Middle East, which is the right of Israel to continue to exist within secure borders … a way of that security being enhanced is obviously being recognised by other states in the region.”

Like Wong, Albanese said Hamas had no role in a future Palestinian state.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers also backed Wong’s view.

“Something needs to change in that part of the world,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.

“If we want to build a pathway out of this endless cycle of violence and bloodshed, then a two-state solution is a good place to focus our efforts.”

But the opposition has slammed the idea, labelling it as “rewarding Hamas” and attempting to shore up votes that might be lost to the Greens. Foreign spokesman Simon Birmingham said the calls “put statehood before security”.

“The reality, however, is that a two-state solution will only be possible with security and confidence that the right of each party to exist will be respected by the other,” he said.

“Hamas’s attacks of 7 October, deliberately slaughtering more Jews than on any single day since the Holocaust, shattered any sense of security.

“It is downright dangerous to reward such barbaric conduct with a fast track to recognition of statehood.”

Coalition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie said Wong’s speech was more focused on domestic politics, rather than foreign policy.

“It breaks from the long-held bipartisan position, because it potentially incentivises and rewards Hamas,” he said in Canberra.

“The Albanese government needs to listen to the concerns of Jewish people.”

Elsewhere, Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley said Wong was trying to secure votes.

“This is clearly a domestic policy position that is completely wrong and completely misunderstands the reality of the Middle East,” Ley told Sky News.

“It’s dressed up as a foreign policy decision, but what it is, is chasing Green votes here in Australia. To make such a decision for domestic, political purposes, is not good for our national security.”

Executive Council of Australia Jewry co-chief executive Alex Ryvchin called Wong’s comments disappointing.

“They are no doubt well-intentioned and the Foreign Minister wants an end to the conflict, as we all do. But when Israel is in the fight of its life against Hamas … to lecture an ally seems callous and inappropriate,” he told ABC TV.

But Wong said efforts to recognise Palestinian statehood would have benefits for Israel.

“I don’t see, ultimately, any security for Israel without the issue of Palestinian statehood being resolved,” she said.

“There is no peace in the long term unless this issue is resolved.”

She said there had been no decision about official Palestine recognition, but it was important to look at international discussion about how to secure peace in the Middle East.

“Obviously, we have the immediate conflict, we need to see Hamas release hostages, we need to see a revitalised Palestinian Authority, we need to see an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” she told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

“Ultimately, peace and security for Israel will only be achieved if we have a Palestinian state alongside the Israeli state.”

Australian Palestine Advocacy Network president Nasser Mashni said Australia should join with other countries and recognise Palestine.

“Australia’s recognition of Palestine would send a signal to the world – that Australia supports the consistent application of international law,” he said.

“Recognition is a first step towards upholding the full rights of Palestinians, including the right to self-determination, dignity and equality in their homeland.”

The conflict in Gaza was triggered by Hamas’ cross-border attack in southern Israel on October 7, that left 1200 people dead and more than 250 people taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in six months of conflict, Gaza’s health ministry says.

-with AAP

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