Senator Penny Wong – Estimates question about Israeli elections and planned annexation of the Jordan Valley

photo of Senator Penny Wong
October 24, 2019

Questioned the status of the election result in Israel and whether Australia remains committed to a two-state solution given Israel’s stated intention to annex the Jordan Valley.

I want to ask, though, about one of the election policies, announced by Prime Minister Netanyahu which did get some attention here in Australia, and that was the annexation of the Jordan Valley. Mr Gantz responded by saying that it was an election policy that copied his party’s vow. Does the Australian government have a position on the potential annexation of the Jordan Valley?

Whole interaction with Dr Ralph King (Acting First Assistant Secretary, Middle East and Africa Division, DFAT) during Senate Estimates (Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio).

Senator WONG: I am sorry to jump around, but I did have a question about Israel and Palestine and the result of the Israeli election. I wonder if you could give us an update on the status of the election result and the likely possibility of the shape of the Israeli government.

 

Dr King : I will give you a very short summary, but not, I’m afraid, a picture of the likely shape of the government because it’s too early. As you know, Mr Netanyahu has said that he will tell the President he cannot form a government. That task has now been given to Mr Benny Gantz. He has 28 days. If that fails, another candidate—I don’t know who—will have 21 days. Israeli politics being robust, I would not be one to venture a guess as to what the shape of the government will be. One thing I can say is—

 

Senator WONG: Fair enough.

 

Senator Payne: We’re not paying you to venture a guess.

 

Dr King : One thing I can say is that we will have good relations with whatever government they choose.

 

Senator WONG: I want to ask, though, about one of the election policies, announced by Prime Minister Netanyahu which did get some attention here in Australia, and that was the annexation of the Jordan Valley. Mr Gantz responded by saying that it was an election policy that copied his party’s vow. Does the Australian government have a position on the potential annexation of the Jordan Valley?

 

Dr King : Mr Netanyahu has made similar comments before. Essentially, our view is that these matters are the subject of final status negotiations.

 

Senator WONG: In other words, we retain our position of support for a two-state solution?

 

Dr King : We do.

 

Senator WONG: Would you agree that annexation of the Jordan Valley unilaterally would not be consistent with, nor conducive towards, a two-state solution?

 

Dr King : I think the Prime Minister has said that settlements and such things are unhelpful. But, as we say, these are matters of final status negotiations.

 

Senator WONG: Which I think is the parlance of saying, ‘This needs to be negotiated.’ Is that basically it? Can you tell me whether we’ve made any representations in relation to these statements, or has Australia taken the view that, given that the government has not yet been formed, we would not do so until that occurred?

 

Dr King : That would be my guess. But the most recent time we spoke about settlement in this case was on 26 September.

 

Senator WONG: Who is ‘we’?

 

Dr King : The Australian embassy in Tel Aviv raised our position on settlements.

 

Senator WONG: With?

 

Dr King : With the Israeli government.

 

Senator WONG: In relation to?

 

Dr King : This is in relation to settlement activity. I think you asked, Senator, about annexation. It was not about that. But our position, just to repeat, is that settlements and borders are final status matters to be resolved through direct negotiation between the parties. We won’t prejudge the outcome.

 

Senator WONG: Thank you very much for that. I have finished on that matter.

Link to full Hansard transcript.

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