Remember, the genesis of the most recent conflict was the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan evictions within East Jerusalem and the ongoing government campaign to expand settlements in the occupied territories. The Morrison government expressed zero concern at this prospect of Israeli annexation of the West Bank in 2020 and nor did the government voice any criticism of the so-called vision for peace.
Ms KEARNEY (Cooper) (10:51): I rise to support this motion. The ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories is complicated. It is loaded with history and littered with broken promises. It is a conflict that has been exacerbated by political leaders and extremists that have sought opportunities and division rather than negotiated outcomes. The recent fighting saw many deaths, and every death is tragic. But Israel is a major regional military power, and any conflict can only ever end badly for the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank.
On Saturday 22 May, I attended a rally in Melbourne calling for an end to the disproportionate response by Israel in Gaza. For doing so, I have been called anti-Semitic by some across the chamber. I reject that categorically. Opposing the current policies and actions of the Israeli government makes me no more anti-Semitic than calling out the Chinese government actions make me a Sinophobe. Israel has a right to exist peacefully and within secure and recognised borders, but Palestinians also have a right to a sustainable state within secure and recognised borders. That requires negotiation and a lot of good will. It also requires justice for Palestinians, not scraps from the table.
In understanding the conflict, we cannot ignore the growing influence of ultranationalist Israeli political players and the power of the settler movement. The active resistance in Israel to the land-for-peace process has been a driving factor of the radicalisation of a new generation of Palestinians frustrated that the Oslo accords have never been implemented. UN Security Council resolution 2334, which passed unanimously in 2016, with the US abstaining, reaffirmed the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force. The resolution:
1. Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;
2. Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem …
The fourth Geneva convention makes it illegal for nations to move populations and establish settlements in territories acquired in a war, and an overwhelming number of countries consider the Israeli settlements to be illegal on this basis. But along came the Trump administration in the US, which delivered a vision for peace that favoured Israel and sidelined the Palestinians. It was a plan that effectively gave the green light for Israel to control a unified Jerusalem and annex land in the occupied territories, leave existing settlements in place, while offering the Palestinians limited sovereignty. It is little wonder the Palestinians rejected this out of hand. Remember, the genesis of the most recent conflict was the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan evictions within East Jerusalem and the ongoing government campaign to expand settlements in the occupied territories. The Morrison government expressed zero concern at this prospect of Israeli annexation of the West Bank in 2020 and nor did the government voice any criticism of the so-called vision for peace. The reality of the peace plan is that, if only one side of the conflict supports it, there can be no peace.
The Morrison government last year slashed Australia’s ODA funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency in the Palestinian territories by 50 per cent. This followed the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw all US funding to the UNWRA, a decision that has thankfully been reversed by the Biden-Harris administration. The Morrison government also discontinued AMENCA, an aid program established by John Howard to help Palestinian farmers become more self-reliant. And then just two weeks ago, on 14 May, Mr Morrison dishonestly claimed that the two-state solution was no longer bipartisan. This was despite the day before Labor making it clear our ongoing support for a two-state solution while joining with the foreign minister in calling for a halt to actions that increase tensions, including land appropriations, forced evictions, demolitions and settlement activity.
We must never forget that Mr Morrison’s prime ministership began by breaking decades of bipartisanship with the Jerusalem embassy debacle to pander for votes in the Wentworth by-election. This Prime Minister has diminished Australia’s credibility on this important international issue. Resolution 2334 condemns indiscriminate acts on civilians by both sides, as do I. I welcome the proposed UN investigation into possible crimes against humanity, whether by Hamas or Israel. I’m not going to be silent about criticising actions that hamper peace.