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Australia backs Palestinian state but quiet on UN vote

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has reiterated that the government supports a two-state solution.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has reiterated that the government supports a two-state solution. Photo: Getty

Australia’s position on a Palestinian bid for United Nations membership remains unclear even as the government insists it will recognise Palestine’s statehood.

Australia and 192 other members of the UN General Assembly are set to vote on a non-binding motion on Friday, as Israel acts against the wishes of its allies and invades Gaza’s last refuge.

The draft resolution would call on the UN Security Council to reconsider elevating Palestine from a non-member observer state to full UN membership, though the text has continued to change as countries negotiate.

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong reiterated that the government supported a two-state solution but did not reveal how Australia would vote.

“It’s not a question of if we will recognise a Palestinian state, it’s a question of when,” she told ABC radio on Friday.

There have been indications Australia could abstain as Hamas still held hostages.

But Wong argued an abstention meant the government could “agree in-part with the resolution”.

“It can send a message that, whilst you don’t agree with it in full, you’re not going to stand in the way,” she said.

Palestinian envoy in Australia Izzat Abdulhadi urged Australia to support the resolution.

It would be in line with its policy of recognition, he said as he noted the resolution wasn’t a direct declaration of statehood.

“It would give credibility to Australia and hope to the Palestinian people,” Abdulhadi told AAP.

Israel has condemned any unilateral push to recognise Palestinian statehood before a negotiated two-state solution, in which an Israeli and Palestinian state would exist side-by-side.

Opponents have argued that any recognition of a Palestinian state or elevation of its status in the UN before Hamas is eradicated would be seen as reward for attacking Israel.

Senator Wong disagreed, saying progress towards a two-state solution was the opposite of what Hamas wanted.

“Hamas wants conflict, this is about long-term peace. Hamas wants to destroy Israel, this is about long-term security for Israel,” she said.

Hamas – designated a terrorist group by the Australian government – launched an attack on Israel on October 7 that killed 1200 people and led another 250 to be taken hostage, according to Israel’s tallies.

Israel has since launched a ground offensive and bombing campaign in Gaza that has killed almost 35,000 people and injured about 77,000 more, according to the local health ministry.

Abdulhadi has also called for a further $25 million in humanitarian aid for Gaza after Israel pressed ahead with a ground invasion of the strip’s last refuge, Rafah, where one million Palestinians are sheltering.

Australia reiterated its call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to allow for the release of hostages and unimpeded flow of aid, a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told AAP.

“Australia will continue to monitor and assess the humanitarian situation, and stands ready to consider further support,” the spokesperson said.

Labor senator Fatima Payman branded an attack on Rafah “an attack on humanity”.

“By rejecting a ceasefire deal, Israel is failing to listen to the international community and failing to end the suffering of innocent Palestinians,” she said in a statement on social media.

The Israeli government needed to be held to account for civilians who had been “indiscriminately killed and subjected to deliberate starvation”, she said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has expressed concern about the civilian population in Rafah, pointing out it was not clear where they should seek shelter given the destruction that had occurred in the rest of Gaza.

At least 1.7 million people in Gaza have been displaced and the majority are starving, according to the UN.

– AAP

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