Senator Nita Green – Estimates questions regarding Australia’s response to settler violence in the West Bank

June 3, 2024

We’ve seen some disturbing incidents of settler violence in the West Bank. What is the Australian government’s assessment about the barriers these actions present to peace?

Senator GREEN: We’ve seen some disturbing incidents of settler violence in the West Bank. What is the Australian government’s assessment about the barriers these actions present to peace?

Mr Innes-Brown : As you said, the Australian government is very concerned about the violence being perpetrated against innocent Palestinian civilians in the West Bank by extremist settlers. This has surged in recent months, including, I might add, efforts to interdict life-saving humanitarian convoys that are coming from Jordan and trying to transfer over to Gaza. These attacks are obviously inflaming the situation at a very delicate time. We’re obviously calling for the Israeli authorities to do more to prevent these attacks but also to hold those responsible to account.

The Australian government has been raising this issue with Israel both in public and in private. It was an issue which the minister traversed during her January visit to Israel and also an issue which Assistant Foreign Minister Watts took up in his visit in December. It’s also an issue we’ve raised publicly. It was in a joint statement with the Republic of Korea recently. It has been something that we’ve done joint statements on, including with other like-minded parties, and also statements with Canada and New Zealand, including at leader level, over the past six months. It’s certainly something we’re taking up. Fundamentally, we believe that these settlements are illegal and are an obstacle to peace. They’re jeopardising the possibility of an eventual two-state solution.

Senator Wong: If I could add to that. Mr Innes-Brown is correct. I met with—

CHAIR interjecting

Senator Wong: God bless!

CHAIR: My apologies. That was a bit loud.

Senator Wong: I met with—I am very distracted now! Focus! I met with some representatives of communities affected by settler violence in my visit to Ramallah, in January. I listened and engaged with them about their experiences, and some of them are quite awful.

The second point I’d make—and I want to emphasise what Mr Innes-Brown said—we’ve taken the view, in this government, that it is very important to be consistent on a two-state solution. That includes being clear about our role on settlements. We have said publicly that our position is that settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal and an obstacle to peace. That is a different position to that held by the previous government but, I think, an important one because it’s consistent with the principle of a two-state solution, which we should adhere to.

Senator GREEN: Thanks, Minister. These incidents are disturbing, and you’ve heard those firsthand accounts. We’ve seen like-minded countries apply visa restrictions to those who’ve perpetrated these serious acts of violence. What’s Australia’s approach?

Senator Wong: I’ll flick to officials to follow up. But we will deny anyone identified as an extremist settler a visa to travel to Australia, which is in line with approaches taken by like-minded countries. But Mr Maclachlan can perhaps talk about the mechanism by which that might occur.

Mr Maclachlan: Any traveller wanting to come to Australia would need to apply for a visa. There are certain parts of that process which are obviously for Home Affairs, in terms of satisfying the requirements of the visa, including character grounds and so on. However, it’s also open to the Department of Home Affairs to refer to this department any visas, applications or candidates for consideration under public interest criteria and whether or not the presence of an individual in Australia would be in keeping with the national interest, and our foreign policy interests. Clearly, as has been articulated by the minister, just now, it would not be in the national interest for those people to be here.

Senator GREEN: I won’t move to my next topic, Chair.

Senator Wong: There’s a lot of discussion, obviously, with partners about how to deal with this. We will continue to work with partner countries to determine further options to respond to extremist settler activity, for the reasons I’ve outlined.

CHAIR: I will come back to you, Senator Green, but I’ll hand the call over to Senator Birmingham. It’s fair to say that the noise around here does sort of bounce around this room, doesn’t it? My apologies about that sneeze before.

Senator Wong: We can’t hear the officials, but we certainly heard your sneeze.

CHAIR: I didn’t mean to throw you off your answer, Minister.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: The timing was not exactly exquisite—

CHAIR: I’ll try next time.

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