Australia says it won't mechanically vote against settlements in UN

New government recently abstained on two anti-Israel resolutions, one to end all settlement activities and for compliance with the Geneva Convention.

November 25, 2013 14:32
2 minute read.
Conservative candidate Tony Abbott vlaims victory in Australia's federal election, Sept. 7, 2013

Conservative Tony Abbott wins Australia election 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Australia will no longer reflexively vote against Israel on settlement-related votes in the UN, but rather judge each vote on its merits, the new Liberal-National government of Tony Abbott clarified in recent days.

Over the last month, Australia abstained on two annual anti-Israel resolutions, one calling for an end to all settlement activities “in all of the occupied territories,” and another calling on Israel to “comply scrupulously” with the 1949 Geneva Convention.

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Under the Labor government that took power in 2007, Australia supported those resolutions.

In September, Australia voted Labor out of office and voted in Abbott, who promised to restore the Australian-Israeli friendship “to the strength it enjoyed under the [John] Howard government.”

Howard, of the Liberal- National Party, was Australia’s prime minister from 1996 to 2007, an era of extremely close ties between the two countries, and a period during which Australia did not vote for these types of resolutions.

That changed when the Labor government came to power and began changing Australia’s voting pattern.

Abbott, one Israeli official said, is moving the voting back to where it was in the past.

Israeli officials were both surprised and disappointed that Australia abstained in the November 2012 General Assembly vote granting non-member statehood status to the Palestinians.

Some attributed this to Australia’s need to win votes for its bid – which was successful – to gain a seat on the UN Security Council.

Australian Ambassador David Sharma told The Jerusalem Post that the abstentions this month were part of the new government’s re-evaluation of how to vote in international forums on a wide variety of issues.

“The government is looking at the issues with fresh eyes,” he said.

Sharma said Canberra does not want to single out Israel for condemnation in international forums.

“The positions we take are designed to be constructive in supporting a two-state solution, instead of political posturing.”

The Australian newspaper on Monday quoted Foreign Minister Julie Bishop as saying the shift in voting “reflected the government’s concern that Middle East resolutions should be balanced.”

“The government will not support resolutions which are one-sided and which pre-judge the outcome of final-status negotiations between the two sides,” she was quoted as saying through a spokesperson.

Bob Carr, who was Australia’s foreign minister under the Labor government, slammed the shift last week, writing in The Sydney Morning Herald that settlers “occupy the favored terrain, draw three times as much water per heat and use reserved infrastructure.”

Buttressing his argument with figures provided by Peace Now and a quote from the documentary The Gatekeepers, Carr concluded that it was a “shame” Australia shifted its vote, and “that we stopped doing the right thing.”

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