Sydney Morning Herald editorial endorses fence-sitting on UN Palestine vote

Perhaps we should be thankful for small mercies but such thoughts are written in a bubble, utterly removed from the fact that a two-state solution will never happen. Occupation is Israel’s only reality:

The United Nations General Assembly vote next month for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state is designed to put pressure on Israel, in a direction Israel itself says is the best solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. This is the creation of a separate state for them in the territories outside the 1967 border of Israel (with some minor land swaps). An affirmative UN vote would not produce a Palestinian state. It would signal a world impatient with the stubborn reluctance of the Israeli political right to accept this compromise in its quest for complete control of Jerusalem and more of the West Bank lands.

The vote calls on the heads and hearts of Israel’s friends, such as Australia. As the Herald reported yesterday, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd, and his department are advising that Australia should abstain from the vote. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, may be inclined towards a vote against it. Whether this is the case, we believe Rudd’s advice is the sound course – and hardly radical – even though the various supporters of Israel in Australia seem to have lobbied intensively against it.

The decision should not be obscured by two side issues. One is Rudd’s quest for election by the UN membership to one of the rotating seats on the Security Council. A win would not be worth having if it meant casting aside the values and interests on which our foreign policy rests, which include support for a secure Israel. Nor should it be seen in the light of leadership issues between Gillard and Rudd, as something on which Gillard should assert pre-eminence. It must be a decision calculated to help advance security for Israel and to gain a place in the sun for the Palestinians.

The Labor government has already brought Australian policy back to a better balance, from which we are in an improved position to join international efforts to achieve faster progress towards peace. On returning to power under Rudd, it reverted to support for UN resolutions calling on Israel to stop expanding Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories and calling for the Geneva Conventions to apply in those occupied lands. For several years previously, the Howard government had voted against or abstained in these votes, putting Australia in the company of mini-American dependencies such as Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands. The switch put us back in better company, and we should stay there – where we are more likely to help Israel and its main backer, the United States, grasp the two-state nettle.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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