By Sarah Ison
Pro-Palestinian groups say they expect Labor to recognise Palestine ahead of the 2025 election of government and have been meeting with MPs and Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s staff to demand the government take a stronger stance on the issue.
Recognising Palestine is expected to return as a debate at Labor’s national conference in August, with the Left faction a chance of holding a majority of votes for the first time in 70 years.
Former Canberra and Goulburn Anglican bishop George Browning said he had met with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Senator Wong’s office last week to express the “urgency” of recognising Palestine as a state.
Mr Browning, the former head of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, said “the facts on ground are that Israel does not support a two state solution”.
“It’s clear it is wishing to annex whole of West Bank, recognising Palestine becomes quite crucial,” he said.
Arab Australian Federation member Hassan Moussa said he had been under the impression ahead of the May 2022 election that Labor would recognise Palestine soon after it came to government.
“Labor’s platform makes its position on this clear and it is now time to abide by its own platform,” he told The Australian.
“Our understanding was it would recognise Palestine in this term … of government.”
The Australian understands Anthony Albanese’s longtime factional nemesis, former Labor senator Kim Carr, will attend national conference as a delegate for the meatworkers union.
Mr Carr, who was forced off the Senate ticket by the Prime Minister’s supporters ahead of the last election, will bolster the number of “AUKUS sceptic” and pro-Palestine delegates on the floor of national conference.
Labor’s 2021 national platform supported “the recognition and right of Israel and Palestine to exist as two states within secure and recognised borders” and called on “the next Labor government” to recognise Palestine as a state.
Former foreign minister Bob Carr said it was not “unreasonable” to expect that statement to mean Labor would recognise Palestine within its first term of government.
“It’s very important all supporters of the two state solution sends the message to both sides and the best way for us to help make that happen is to join the 138 nations which already recognise Palestine,” he said.
Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council national chairman Mark Leibler refuted the assertion the West Bank was being annexed and said the recognition of Palestine would prevent peace from being achieved.
“The position of the Jewish community has been well stated time and time again,” he said. “We support a two state solution and nothing would be more calculated to prevent that from happening than unilateral recognition.”
On the weekend, the Victorian Labor conference urged the Albanese government to recognise a Palestinian state before the next election, setting the stage for the matter to become a point of contention in the national conference in Brisbane.
Gareth Evans, another former Labor foreign minister, addressed the parliamentary friends of Palestine last week to give a keynote on the need to recognise the “rights of dispossessed Palestinians”. He is also understood to have met with Senator Wong about the issue.
Senator Wong told the Senate on Wednesday that while Labor was a “friend of Israel”, friends could also disagree.
“We intend to judge the (Israeli) government on policies it pursues and make our views known when we need to,” she said.
While Labor sources said they expected the government to try and keep the language on Palestine as uncontroversial as possible, they believed there would be members of the Left faction who would push the government to go further in supporting Palestinian statehood and rights.