Australia has recently secured a seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for two years from 2013 as one of the 10 non-permanent members of the Council.
Our role in UN programs relating to Palestine has been a constant theme of Australian foreign policy since 1948 — one on which Australia has often claimed a prominent position.
Unfortunately, UN efforts to see an orderly outcome to the dismantling of the UN Mandate in Palestine since 1947 have been met with limited success.
Given our new prominence in debates through our membership of the UNSC over the next two years, it would give further credibility to our international profile if we could further the cause of a peaceful resolution of the issues between Israel and Palestine in accordance with UN and other international norms.
Australian statements referring repeatedly to a ‘two state solution’ between Israelis and Palestinians fail to give any hints as to the framework of such a resolution. This would implicitly leave it up to Israel and Palestine to settle the complex issues left from the collapse of a failed international Mandate. Given that Israel is the world’s fifth largest military power and Palestine a weakened and constricted economy—denied armed forces and even the capacity to administer its borders—such international pressure would seem the only way a viable result can be achieved.
Australia today treads quietly back from endorsing the continuing framework for international action, even apparently abandoning the term ‘occupation’.
Other Western countries not only criticize the settlements but note that they are illegal under the framework of international law; a framework for which Australia has professed its support since 1948. Even the Unites States frequently describes Israeli settlement plans as ‘illegal’ while Australia confines its language to ‘concern’ and description of these moves as ‘unhelpful’.
APAN believes it is time that Australia assumed the role it has claimed for itself as a middle power seeking to help unravel difficult international issues by taking a more forthright position on the Israel/Palestinian issue. It is inconsistent for Australia to claim this status while it remains among the miniscule group of unqualified supporters of Israel ready to provide cover for Israeli actions whenever they disregard international law.
APAN does not seek to undermine Australia’s support for Israel’s legitimate security interests and its survival as a democratic state. Rather it believes those interests are best protected by establishing a viable security environment through the settlement of outstanding issues. The process by which Palestinian homes, farms and villages were taken in 1947-48, resulting in death or exile for many hundreds of thousands, remains fundamental to the dispute.
Israel is running out of time on a two state solution. If Australia is to give real content to supporting a peaceful outcome, effective pressure on Israel is essential—not token commitment to an empty ideal that effectively allows Israel to tighten its grip on Palestine even further.
If Israel maintains the occupation of Palestine indefinitely, demography will impose a de facto ‘one state solution’ which will deny a majority of its inhabitants their democratic rights, thus isolating Israel on the international stage. This is in no one’s interests.
The next test of our approach will be the vote later this month on raising the status of the Palestinian entry at the UN to that of ‘non-member state’. Logically, this should be a non-controversial issue, but Israel has chosen to make it another test of its international support, which it is bound to lose. Australia would enhance its claim to international citizenship if it accepted that voting ‘yes’ to enhance Palestine’s status is consistent with the Australian Government’s support for a peaceful resolution and does not in any way pre-empt the eventual terms of settlement between the parties to the conflict.