By Phillip Coorey
Victorian Labor has set up a showdown over Israeli-Palestinian policy at the ALP national conference in August by passing a motion demanding the Albanese government immediately recognise Palestine as a state.
It did so as a separate motion criticising the AUKUS trilateral security pact was pulled at the last minute from the Victorian State Labor conference on Sunday, under a deal by factional bosses to defer debate until the national conference in Brisbane.
With the pro-Palestine, anti-AUKUS Left faction having the numbers on the floor of the national conference for the first time in decades, sources said a deal would have to be done to stop any motion critical of AUKUS passing and embarrassing the Albanese government.
This, however, could include a policy shift on Israel. For the first time, the Victorian conference passed a motion supporting the recognition of the Palestinian state during this term of parliament, and those behind it will push for a similar motion at the national conference.
The motion, as passed, “calls on the Albanese Labor government to recognise the Palestinian state within the term of this parliament, joining with 138 countries, and the Vatican, which have already done so”.
Previous attempts at such a motion in Victoria have been blocked by the Right with the backing of the pro-Israel lobby.
Currently, Australia recognises the right of Israel and Palestine to exist as two states within secure and recognised borders.
Adding an embassy
The motion passed at the Victorian conference wants immediate recognition of the Palestinian state.
This would involve replacing the diplomatic office in Ramallah with an embassy, and similarly upgrading the diplomatic status of the Palestinian Authority in Canberra.
Former Victorian and pro-Israeli MP Michael Danby said Premier Dan Andrews, who along with Anthony Albanese mounted an intervention to clear the Victorian branch of branch stackers, was to blame.
“Dan Andrews’ four-year intervention in the Victorian ALP has seen his Socialist Left emerge with about 400 of the 603 delegates at this weekend meeting in Melbourne,” he said.
“So he owns both of these votes to oppose AUKUS and for unilateral recognition of Palestine.”
With the Left to control the national conference for the first time since the Labor split of 1955, Mr Danby feared the faction would demand the Palestinian resolution in return for not embarrassing Mr Albanese on AUKUS.
“The August national conference in Brisbane will see the majority Socialist Left faced with a conflict of disloyalties – either ditch AUKUS and Israel and vote down Prime Minister Albanese, or dump their opposition to rebuilding our military capability to stand up to China.”
On Sunday, however, enough left-wing unions voted with the Right to defer the AUKUS motion, which was put forward by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. It voted against the deferral but was outmuscled by 308 votes.
The motion expressed disappointment with, or criticised, all aspects of the AUKUS deal between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, including its quick embrace by Labor in opposition when Scott Morrison announced it.
The motion demanded “federal Labor caucus to be more politically diverse and avoid being swept along by the interests and priorities of America’s corporate, political, and military elites”.
One Right source mocked the lack of backbone in the Left in not carrying through with the motion.
“There’s no socialists and there’s not much Left,” he said.
“They had the numbers at the Victorian conference, and they chose not to use them.
“It takes longer to eat a cheeseburger than the Left spent talking about AUKUS.”
The Australia, Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) strongly condemned the motion.
AIJAC Executive Director Dr Colin Rubenstein said: “This counter-productive 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.”
Nasser Mashni, President of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network disagreed.
“The ALP has been moving towards recognition as an affirmation of Palestinian rights to self determination for nearly a decade. With extremists at the helm in Israel, there has never been a better time to enact this policy,” he said.
“This policy would put us in lockstep with our regional neighbours and tell them our foreign policy is not made in Washington.”
“Australia recognised Israel 75 years ago, what are we waiting for? Australia is a democracy, it’s in the Labor Party platform, the Labor Party is a democracy,”