Abstention on Palestinian state is wrong move for Aussies

Canberra should not sacrifice Israel in order to gain a seat on the Security Council.

julia gillard australian pm 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
julia gillard australian pm 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The writer is founder and chair of the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange and the Australia Israel Leadership Forum.
September 20. That’s the date that now looms on the Middle East horizon, after the decision by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to request formal recognition of the state of Palestine by the United Nations.
Palestinian officials believe almost 120 nations support Palestine becoming the 194th member of the international organization.
Aside from the fact that the UN has become a bastion of anti- Israel sentiment and a platform for Israel-bashing, Australia should not be among the states that vote for Palestinian statehood.
Here’s why.
First, Australia is committed to a two-state solution. It rightly supports the establishment of a Palestinian state. So do I. And so do the vast majority of Israelis. But that commitment is conditional on the right of Israel to live in peaceful and secure borders – a right that is mutually exclusive to the charter of Hamas, a terror organization whose military wing is outlawed in Australia, and which has held Gilad Schalit in captivity since June 2006.
Here’s the rub: Australia’s longstanding support for a two-state solution is based on bilateralism – namely that the Israelis and Palestinians hold direct negotiations.
But the Palestinian demand for statehood via the United Nations is unilateral.
Second, the Palestinian bid to seek statehood via the UN is akin to putting a match to dynamite.
Already Palestinian officials claim to be planning worldwide protests – probably including here in Australia – to coincide with the September 20 vote. Mass unrest across the Arab world is likely.
And that’s a prescription for yet another black chapter in a century- old conflict.
Third, Kevin Rudd’s alleged preference to abstain has been widely reported as an attempt to appease the Arab bloc, whom he wants to support Australia’s bid for a temporary seat at the UN Security Council in 2013. Rudd’s ambition for Australia to punch above its weight on the international arena is to be admired, and the fact that Australia hasn’t had a seat at the table since 1986 should be rectified.
Rudd would be well aware that Lebanon will replace India as president of the Security Council next month – which is why the Palestinians have chosen September 20 as their date. Yes, this is the very same Lebanon that dissociated itself from a Security Council statement earlier this month condemning the Syrian regime’s massacre of civilians.
Rudd is right to want to bring Australia’s integrity to the table, but he’s wrong to do so by sacrificing Israel.
Fortunately Prime Minister Julia Gillard, whose moral clarity on the Middle East was first evident when she backed Israel in its war against Hamas in December 2008, is reportedly at odds with Rudd’s view.
Fourth, a “yes” vote at the General Assembly will be only a Pyrrhic victory for the Palestinians, since full membership requires the backing of the 15- member Security Council, and the US has already stated its intention to veto the proposal.
WHAT THE Palestinians will likely end up with is the status of a nonmember state – an upgrade from its current observer status, but a step short of full membership. All Abbas will achieve is a toothless resolution that has no legal bearing and therefore no power to sanction the putative Palestinian state.
Even the liberal New York Times, in its editorial of August 6, concluded that Abbas’s strategy would leave him “empty-handed,” saying: “After the initial exhilaration, Palestinians would be even more alienated, while extremists would try to exploit that disaffection.” Australia should not be party to such a scenario.
An abstention by Australia’s envoy to the UN would be misconstrued by the Greens – and their leftist allies – as a victory. For despite Greens leader Bob Brown’s public statements, among his growing ranks are those who try to disguise their anti-Israel vitriol under the veneer of progressive politics.
The newly elected senator for New South Wales, Lee Rhiannon, is the quintessential case in point.
She openly defended Marrickville Council’s ill-fated support for the Israel boycott – a campaign that has now morphed into the targeting of Max Brenner chocolate shops across Australia.
Make no mistake. Factions of this mob of anti-Israel protesters – some of whom are due in court next month for breaching bail conditions after they were arrested in the melee outside Max Brenner in Melbourne on July 1 – are red, not green. One of their chants reveals their true colors: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” What is so galling is their rank hypocrisy. Where are the mass protests about the slaughter of innocents in Syria, or Libya, or Egypt? Optimists hope that this act of unilateralism by the Palestinians will help resuscitate the moribund peace process, because the alternative is much worse. But it’s a forlorn hope.
In the end, the real question is not what happens in New York on September 20, but what happens in Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron, Gaza, Lebanon and elsewhere on September 21.
The tragedy is that this unilateral attempt to declare a Palestinian state will only light another fuse in the combustible Middle East.