Mark Dreyfus MP

Member for Isaacs
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Labor's Policy On Israel And The Palestinian Territories

12 April 2021

The tragic conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and the fraught peace process in which they have been involved for generations is too important to be used by politicians desperate to be noticed by their colleagues.

MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS

LABOR’S POLICY ON ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

Contrary to some of the more alarmist headlines and commentary elsewhere, recognition is a matter for a future Labor government, writes the Shadow Attorney-General

The just-concluded ALP National Conference agreed the following words on Israel-Palestine:

National Conference:

    • Supports the recognition and right of Israel and Palestine to exist as two states within secure and recognised borders;
    • Calls on the next Labor Government to recognise Palestine as a state; and
    • Expects that this issue will be an important priority for the next Labor Government.

Compare these with the words agreed at the 2018 ALP National Conference, held shortly before the last election:

National Conference:

    • Supports the recognition and right of Israel and Palestine to exist as two states within secure and recognised borders;
    • Calls on the next Labor Government to recognise Palestine as a state; and
    • Expects that this issue will be an important priority for the next Labor Government.

Given the alarmist headlines and inaccurate claims about Labor’s position, you could be forgiven for thinking that something significant had happened to Labor’s Israel policy between these two conferences.

But the statement on the Israel-Palestinian conflict endorsed by the March 2021 Conference is exactly the same as the resolution passed in 2018.

This is quite deliberate because as far as Labor is concerned, nothing has changed in the past three years that warrants a change in our policy.

And that means that, contrary to some of the more alarmist headlines and commentary elsewhere, Labor has not committed to recognising a Palestinian State.

As Michael Danby accurately stated after the 2018 conference, that resolution means a future Labor Government “has the flexibility to act independently on Middle East policy”.

The position agreed at this conference under Anthony Albanese’s leadership, just like the resolution passed in 2018 under Bill Shorten’s leadership, makes clear that recognition of a Palestinian state is a matter for a future Labor Government.

This is not now, and never could be, a matter that can be resolved from opposition by resolutions on the floor of a conference.

The only way an enduring and just two-state solution can be achieved is through a negotiated outcome between the two parties and, as Labor has long made clear, that requires recognition by the Palestinians of the rights of the people of Israel to live in peace within secure borders.

Labor has always been, and remains to this day, a strong friend and supporter of the State of Israel.  That will never change.

It’s been that way since Labor Prime Minister Ben Chifley’s Government cast the first vote in favour of creating the modern state of Israel, and the March 2021 ALP National Conference has not changed this rock-solid support one iota.

It’s also true that for nearly all this period, support for the state of Israel and the Jewish people has been bipartisan and, I believe, remains so to this day.

This bipartisanship has been unambiguously good for both Australia and Israel and has ensured that no matter who is in government on either side, in either country, the relationship continues to the undoubted benefit of both nations, and to the wider Jewish community.

This is because sensible members on both sides have long supported the ideal of the Jewish state, and its standing as a beacon of democracy in a region where such values are too often ignored.

We have also understood that the tragic conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and the fraught peace process in which they have been involved for generations is too important to be used by politicians desperate to be noticed by their colleagues.

Such cheap politicking doesn’t help Israel, and it doesn’t help Australia.

It plays to exactly the same sort of mindless, self-interested behaviour that too often has derailed our hopes for a lasting peace for Israel.

It doesn’t help Australia or Israel and it most certainly will do nothing to advance the peace process and bring forward the day when the Israeli and Palestinian peoples can live in peace, within secure internationally recognised borders.

The facts are clear. Labor’s 2021 conference has changed nothing. The Australian Labor Party’s support for Israel is as strong today as it was in 1949 when our friendship was founded on our shared democratic values and a common commitment to justice and to the rights, liberty and security of our citizens.

This article was first published by Plus61J Media  on Monday, 12 April 2021