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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Julia Gillard's backdown over Israel

Julia Gillard nearly lost her job yesterday when cabinet refused to back her decision to vote with Israel and the US against a UN resolution for greater recognition of a Palestinian state.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr is said to have been instrumental in the rebellion and threatened to vote against her which would have forced her resignation.  She quickly changed her mind and announced that Australia would abstain from the UN vote. 

Malcolm Turnbull

The Opposition, who would have supported the vote, is disgusted with the government's decision.  Malcolm Turnbull said this morning that after chasing and finally securing a temporary seat on the UN Council, and given our first opportunity to have a say on an important issue like this one, Australia gets to say "nothing."

Foreign Minister, Bob Carr

US and Israeli officials are apparently "stunned" by our change in policy.  Some are saying it's because Labor MP's in Sydney's Muslim seats will be voted out next year if we don't vote against it.  But it's more than that, there's been a shift in thinking.

The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, hit the nail on the head when he said "There is no military resolution to the crises in Gaza or to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The only way to give the Palestinian people the state they need and deserve, and the Israeli people the security and peace they are entitled to, is through a negotiated two-state solution and time for this is now running out." 

Bill Shorten

The PM believes that a UN resolution to upgrade the Palestinian status to non-member observer status could damage the fragile peace talks and ceasefire currently in place but only two cabinet ministers supported her on that view - Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy.

Stephen Conroy

Ten cabinet ministers spoke against it - Tony Burke, Chis Bowen, Bob Carr, Simon Crean, Craig Emerson, Martin Ferguson, Peter Garrett, Anthony Albanese, Mark Butler and Greg Combet.  

Mr Carr said it was common sense for Australia to adopt a middle-road approach and said the PM had shaped the decision and showed smart leadership.  "Australia strongly supports a negotiated two-state solution that allows a secure Israel to live side-by-side with a secure and independent future Palestinian state" he said.

Only seven countries are expected to vote against the move - Israel, USA, Canada, Micronesia, Palau, Nauru and the Marshall Islands.  If the PM's decision was approved, Australia would have been the eighth.

Bob Hawke

One of Labor's most faithful friends of Israel, former PM Bob Hawke, was busy on the phone, urging ministers to vote for an abstention. "Israel's policy of allowing the continued expansion of settlements was sabotaging peace and Israel's friends have to send them a message" he said.

I think they've got it.