By James Massola
Victorian Labor has ramped up pressure on Anthony Albanese to recognise a Palestinian state in this term of parliament, with former foreign minister Bob Carr saying it would send a powerful message to “the most right-wing government in Israel’s history”.
The Victorian Labor Party’s state conference also expressed disappointment over the AUKUS submarine deal, but debate over whether the deal infringes “Australia’s independent foreign and defence policy” has been delayed until national conference.
The AUKUS deal and push to recognise Palestine shape as flashpoints for this year’s national conference, to be held in Brisbane in August.
Federal Labor’s 2021 national platform supports the recognition of Israel and Palestine as part of a two-state solution, and says it should be a priority for Labor in government, but since winning the election the federal government has been wary of taking this step because it could infuriate Israel.
Key figures in the Victorian Labor Right faction, including Bill Shorten, Stephen Conroy and Mark Dreyfus, have long been strong supporters of Israel and have, over the past decade, clashed at successive national conferences with the National Left faction and the NSW Right, led by Carr, on the issue of recognition of Palestine.
But at the Victorian state conference on Sunday, a motion was passed supporting recognition “within the term of this parliament”, ramping up pressure on the Albanese government to act soon.
Doing so would be welcomed by Labor’s progressive base but would potentially anger Israel, which was caught by surprise last October when the Labor government reversed the Morrison government’s decision to recognise West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The AUKUS motion called for more detail on the deal, including the claim it will create 20,000 Australian jobs, and stressed the importance of nuclear non-proliferation. It came two weeks after the Queensland Labor conference defeated a motion proposing to congratulate the Albanese government on the deal.
Labor luminaries including Paul Keating, Carr, Gareth Evans, Peter Garrett and Kim Carr have all expressed reservations about the AUKUS deal, as have members of the party’s rank and file.
Carr, an outspoken supporter of Palestinian recognition, said Israel was persisting with a “cruel occupation that includes apartheid laws. It is not interested in negotiating a two-state solution and around the world patience with Benjamin Netanyahu has run out.
“The recognition of Palestine sends a powerful message. One hundred and thirty eight nations already recognise Palestine and it has been in the ALP national platform for about five years.”
Israel’s ambassador Amir Maimon recently cautioned against unilateral action, telling this masthead: “Israel’s position is that the final status of the [Palestinian] territories should be decided by the two parties involved.”
Australia Palestine Action Network president Nasser Mashni said the group had always expected recognition of Palestine in the current term of parliament.
“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,” he said.
“This would put us in lockstep with our neighbours and tell them our foreign policy is not made in Washington.”
Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said the Victorian Labor conference motion was deeply disappointing.
“It is a truism that if you reward bad behaviour, you’ll get more of it. From its support for terrorism, its rejection of negotiations and its promotion of vicious anti-Semitism, the Palestinian leadership actively undermines peace. By calling on the federal government to reward this behaviour with diplomatic recognition, the Victorian Labor resolution implicitly celebrates this.”