newsIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Australian governing party branch calls to recognize ‘Palestine’

Victorian Labor's annual conference overwhelmingly supported the resolution.

Victorian Labor Party delegates at the state conference, June 2023. Source: Twitter via AIJAC.
Victorian Labor Party delegates at the state conference, June 2023. Source: Twitter via AIJAC.

The governing Australian Labor Party’s branch in Victoria, the country’s second-most-populous state, passed a resolution calling on the federal government to “move immediately to recognise Palestine.”

The measure was “carried by the voices,” meaning it had overwhelming support so there was no formal vote. Some 400 out of the 630 party conference members attended the event at the Moonee Valley Racing Club on Sunday. Victorian Labor’s annual state conference is its supreme policymaking and governing body.

The Zionist Federation of Australia expressed disappointment in the Victorian Labor State Conference’s adoption of the resolution.

ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said, “It is a truism that if you reward bad behavior, you’ll get more of it. From its support for terrorism, its rejection of negotiations and its promotion of vicious antisemitism, the Palestinian leadership actively undermines peace. By calling on the federal government to reward this behavior with diplomatic recognition, the Victorian Labor resolution implicitly celebrates this.

“Foreign Minister Penny Wong has repeatedly condemned unilateral actions on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, but this is exactly what Victorian Labor is calling for,” Leibler said.

The focus will now shift to August 17-19, when Labor will hold its national conference in Brisbane.

There is growing support for the Palestinian cause among Labor members, but official recognition of a Palestinian state is unlikely in the near future. Australia is one of Israel’s strongest allies. Israel’s ambassador to Australia, Amir Maimon, has made Israel’s position clear that final-status agreements on Palestinian territories would be between the two parties.

Cozying up to extremists

Other Jewish organizations also expressed concern over the passing of the resolution.

“For some time now there has been a sector of the Labor Party trying to push it away from its historic and principled support for the Jewish national home and social democratic principles and to turn it into a hard-left Corbynist party. The leadership has resisted this, knowing that turning on a democratic ally and cozying up to extremists is not only immoral, it would make the party unelectable,” said Alex Ryvchin, co-chief executive officer of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

“Ultimately, Labor will need to determine its course and live with the consequences. The Jewish community will not stand by and accept policies that pander to those who want to see Israel disappear, and we believe the vast majority of Australians are with us,” Ryvchin said.

Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australian/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), said: “This counterproductive and frankly juvenile motion is phrased as rescuing the two-state solution, but in fact, resolutions such as this are setbacks to the peace process.

“The crucial fact, which this motion clearly ignores, is that the reason there is no peace is the intransigence of the Palestinian leadership, which has repeatedly rebuffed all efforts to achieve a two-state resolution,” Rubenstein continued. “The Palestinian Authority simply walked away from generous offers of statehood made by Israel in 2000, 2001 and 2008 without even making a counter-offer, and has refused to negotiate peace since it abandoned talks in 2014, while Hamas turned Gaza into a terror enclave after Israel totally withdrew from the territory in 2005 in the hope of encouraging peaceful coexistence

“All Israeli efforts at building confidence between the two sides or negotiating a further agreement have been similarly spurned,” he said.

“The Palestinians have instead settled on a long-term strategy of subjecting Israel to continuous terrorism, while demonizing it at all available international fora. They hope to ultimately replace Israel with a Palestinian state rather than have one live in peace alongside it. This is simply a recipe for perpetual conflict.

“Rewarding this intransigent and destructive behavior with motions such as the one passed by Victorian Labor will only encourage such rejectionist behavior to continue, which is to the great detriment of all parties involved,” Rubenstein said.

The Australian Labor Party has state conferences and a federal conference where resolutions are passed and party platforms decided. While the resolution passed at the Victorian State Conference is not binding, it has been on Labor’s agenda for five years. Federal Labor’s 2021 national platform supports the recognition of Israel and Palestine as part of a two-state solution.

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