By Daniel Hurst
Foreign minister says decisions on recognising the state of Palestine are a ‘matter for government’ despite prior resolution from Labor national conferences
Palestinian advocates have called on the Australian government to honour its promises after Penny Wong declined to commit to a timetable for recognising Palestinian statehood.
On Thursday the foreign affairs minister acknowledged a lack of progress towards a two-state solution had consequences for the Palestinian people, but said she could not predict the future.
Distancing herself from the Labor party platform, Wong said any decisions on recognising Palestinian statehood would be “a matter for government”.
The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network said recognising the state of Palestine was “the easiest and simplest step this government can take to join the majority of the world’s nations and support a peaceful resolution”.
“Honouring their promise, and recognising the State of Palestine, is the least this Labor government can do,” the network’s president, Nasser Mashni, said.
“At a time when UN experts and the world’s leading human rights organisations are openly labelling Israel’s policies against Palestinians as the crime of apartheid, we would hope our government would be taking greater action in supporting the Palestinian people in their demand for justice.”
In 2018 and 2021, Labor’s national conference backed a resolution that “supports the recognition and right of Israel and Palestine to exist as two states within secure and recognised borders” and “calls on the next Labor government to recognise Palestine as a state”.
But now we must also recognise Palestine, call for Israeli accountability in international courts, and compel Israel to allow Palestinians to have the most basic of rights, self-determination,” Wilkie told parliament on Thursday.
During the Senate hearing, Wong acknowledged shortcomings in the process the Albanese government followed to reverse the former Morrison government’s recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Wong said the change in language on the Dfat website on 17 October was “a mistake” because it happened before government processes were completed. The change was reported by Guardian Australia the same day.
Cabinet fast-tracked the decision the next morning to avoid prolonged confusion about its position.
Wong said that meant “there was not the consultation and advice that would usually occur” including with Australia’s own ambassador to Israel, Paul Griffiths, who initially liked a tweet quoting the minister as saying the government’s position was unchanged.
Griffiths was called in to Israel’s foreign ministry hours later for the Israeli government to register what it called its “deep disappointment in the face of the Australian government’s decision resulting from shortsighted political considerations”.
Asked whether she always intended to make the announcement at that time, Wong said: “No. I don’t generally do things that way … I like to be a little more prepared.”
She added: “It’s pretty obvious there was no communications plan.”
Israel’s embassy in Australia was contacted for comment.