13 August 2012
PDF version [382KB]
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security Section
Increasing aid to the Palestinians
Table 1: Australian ODA to the Palestinians: 1995–96 to 2012–13 (current prices)
Graph 1: Australian ODA to the Palestinians: 1995–96 to 2012–13 (current prices)
The 60th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel
Australia’s voting pattern at the United Nations General Assembly
Durban World Conference against Racism and subsequent Review Conferences
The Gaza War and the Goldstone Report
The passport affair
The ‘flotilla incident’ and the blockade of Gaza
The Palestinians’ unilateral statehood bid
Statements on a possible solution to the Middle East conflict
This paper complements another Parliamentary Library Background Note, Australia and the Middle East conflict: a history of key Government statements (1947–2007), which documents the evolution of Australia’s publicly stated policy towards the Middle East conflict during that period. This Background Note focuses on the public position of the two Labor Governments, in power since 2007, towards the Israeli-Palestinian dispute by looking at the Australian Government’s response to key developments relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as broader Government statements on the nature of the conflict and its possible resolution.
The Australian Labor Party’s (ALP’s) policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, when it won the November 2007 federal election, is best represented in the party’s National Platform and Constitution 2007:
Labor is convinced that all Australians seek a lasting and equitable solution to the problems that have worked against stability and development in the Middle East. Labor will pursue a sustained Australian engagement in the Arab/Israeli conflict based on the rights of all people in the Middle East to peace and security and livelihood .... Labor believes that urgent attainment of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the best way to reduce violence and conflict across the Middle East.
Less than a month after the ALP came to power, Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullen, announced that Australia was effectively doubling its official development assistance (ODA) to the ‘Palestinian territories’ from 2008. This announcement was made at the December 2007 Paris Donors Conference for the Palestinian territories. McMullen said at the time:
I will pledge Australia's $45 million assistance package at the Donors' Conference for the Palestinian Territories in Paris today.
Australia's funding will help the Palestinian Authority and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad implement their reform and development plan, which will focus on four key areas of development: governance reform, social development, economic and private sector development, and public infrastructure development.
Australia's pledge sends an important signal that Australia remains committed to a two State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which will see a viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace with Israel.
Australian aid to the Palestinians has grown substantially since the 2007–08 financial year. By June 2011, the then Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd was able to declare that Australia is among the top ten contributors of development assistance to the Palestinian National Authority (PA).
ODA (A$ million)
The following graph shows clearly the significant rise in Australian aid to the Palestinians since 2007–08. Note that the figures in the table above and the graph below include funds provided not only to the PA but also to international organisations such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for use on Palestinian programs.
While this increase in aid coincided with the election of a Labor Government in Australia in November 2007, it also coincided with the mid-2007 Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, the disintegration of the Fatah-Hamas unity government, and the installation of Western-leaning Salam Fayyad as Prime Minister in the West Bank.
The victory of Hamas in the January 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, and the formation of the Hamas-Fatah unity Government, had according to the previous Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, restricted the ability of the Australian Government to provide assistance to the—at least somewhat—Hamas-controlled Palestinian National Authority, because:
[As] a listed entity under the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945, it is illegal for Australians to provide assistance to Hamas. This will constrain any Australian support to the PA as long as Hamas retains its current charter.
Hamas’s military wing—Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades—was listed by Australia as a terrorist organisation under the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 in November 2003. The Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 makes it a criminal offence to ‘give funds, financial assets or economic resources to sanctions designated persons or entities’.
After the Hamas takeover of Gaza (and Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas’s appointment of an ‘emergency’ government in the West Bank), Foreign Minister Downer ‘supported’ the appointment of the independent politician Salam Fayyad as Prime Minister, and in June 2007 held talks with Fayyad in Ramallah, promising $4 million ‘of support to the [emergency] Palestinian Government’. The Hamas-Fatah split therefore enabled those governments who had proscribed Hamas (or its armed wing) to again provide aid directly to the PA. Had the Howard Government been in power at the time of the Paris Donors Conference for the Palestinian territories in December 2007, it is possible that it too would have increased aid to the Palestinians.
The increase in aid to the Palestinian administration in the West Bank coincided with the new governance program adopted by the new Palestinian Prime Minister in the West Bank, Salam Fayyad. A former World Bank and International Monetary Fund official and independent Palestinian politician, Fayyad had broad support in the West, and his governance program, entitled Palestine: ending the Occupation, building the state, likewise received international support. This program, sometimes referred to as ‘Fayyadism’, involves building state institutions in the West Bank and developing the economy as a way to prepare for statehood.
The West Bank economy has grown substantially since Fayyad became Prime Minister. This is especially the case when viewed in the context of the global financial crisis. Economic growth averaged nine per cent between 2008 and 2010, declining to 5.7 per cent in 2011 and an expected five per cent in 2012. The International Monetary Fund attributed this to the ‘Fayyad government’s sound economic management and reforms supported by donor aid, as well as some easing of Israeli internal barriers’.
Implementing law and order reform has also been a central part of Fayyad’s ‘ending the occupation, building the state’ program. As Palestinian spokesman Ghassan Khatib said recently:
... reforming the security forces is the main and integral part of the Fayyad plan. Many of the government’s other successes, such as economic growth, came as a result.
To this end, the PA sought international funding to retrain and re-arm its police forces and improve the criminal justice system. Since 2007, thousands of PA police officers have been trained in part by American and European advisors, and police have been deployed throughout the cities and towns in the West Bank under Palestinian security control. Israeli-PA security cooperation has increased to levels not seen since the 1990s, and the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported in November 2010 that Israel Defence Force personnel stationed in the West Bank were at their lowest levels since the outbreak of the First Intifada in 1987.
In terms of Australia’s response to these economic and security developments, the then Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said in December 2010:
Australia is determined to help the Palestinian Authority lay strong foundations for a future Palestinian state and build its infrastructure and economy.
I have been pleased to see these activities on the ground and commend the Palestinian Authority for the progress it has made.
In September 2010 the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the PA signed a ‘Partnership Arrangement’. As part of the Arrangement the Australian Government committed itself to:
- ensuring consistent or increased development assistance to the PA
- building the capacity of the PA through, among other things, targeted scholarships and
- providing budget support for service delivery and mutually determined reform targets.
Finally, on 28 May 2012 Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced that Australia had signed an agreement with UNRWA to provide that organisation with $90 million over five years to support ‘education and medical care for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank’. The Australian Government had already budgeted to provide $15 million to UNRWA in 2012–13, and it is unclear whether this most recent announcement is additional funding or is accounted for in the 2012–13 Federal Budget.
At the time of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd introduced a motion into the House of Representatives that demonstrated nominal support for the continuation of the Howard Government’s policy of striving for closer bilateral relations with Israel. The Government motion moved that the House of Representatives:
1) celebrate and commend the achievements of the State of Israel
(2) remember with pride and honour the important role which Australia played in the establishment of the State of Israel as both a member state of the United Nations and as an influential voice in the introduction of Resolution 181 which facilitated Israel’s statehood, and as the country which proudly became the first to cast a vote in support of Israel’s creation
(3) acknowledge the unique relationship which exists between Australia and Israel a bond highlighted by our commitment to the rights and liberty of our citizens and encouragement of cultural diversity
(4) commend the State of Israel’s commitment to democracy, the Rule of Law and pluralism
(5) reiterate Australia’s commitment to Israel’s right to exist and our ongoing support to the peaceful establishment of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue
(7) on this, the 60th Anniversary of Independence of the State of Israel, pledge our friendship, commitment and enduring support to the people of Israel as we celebrate this important occasion together.
Prime Minister Rudd’s speech to the motion gave more detail on the Government’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute:
The 60 years since the establishment of Israel have been full of challenges and full of trials. Similarly, the process for the emergence of a Palestinian state has come along a torturous path. There has been too much bloodshed. But over those 60 years there has also been cause for hope.
We firmly believe the establishment of an independent and economically viable Palestinian state must remain a key objective in the Middle East peace process. This is important for the future. It was important in the vision of 1947. It remains the vision today, just as our objective must be for Israel to exist within secure and internationally recognised boundaries.
Over the past 60 years Israel has preserved its robust parliamentary democracy and has built a vibrant society and economy.
Over the past 60 years governments from both sides of politics in Australia have supported our strong relationship with Israel. That relationship is strong and it is deep—and it will remain so. Because we are both democracies, as democracies sometimes we will agree and sometimes we will disagree. That is in the nature of strong relationships. But the underlying friendship between us does not alter.
The Rudd Labor Government received criticism for changing some votes at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) concerning the Middle East conflict. In 2008 and 2009 the Government instructed its representative at the UNGA to change Australia’s vote regarding three recurring resolutions; these were:
- A/RES/63/96: Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories—Australia changed its vote in November 2008 from ‘abstain’ to ‘in favour’
- A/RES/63/97: Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan, which reaffirms that Israeli settlements in these areas are ‘illegal and an obstacle to peace’—Australia changed its vote in November 2008 from ‘against’ to ‘in favour’ and
- A/RES/64/150: The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, which ‘reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State of Palestine’—Australia changed its vote in December 2009 from ‘abstain’ to ‘in favour’. 
The Howard Government in its later years had either voted to abstain or had voted against very similar resolutions. In justifying the Labor Government’s changes, the then Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said in November 2008:
It is important to make the point to the House that, when it comes to General Assembly resolutions, the government adopts the following approach. Firstly, we treat these resolutions on a case-by-case basis and consider them on their merits. Secondly, we consider these resolutions firmly within the context of our very strong adherence to our support for a two-nation-state solution and our support of the peace process. If the resolutions are consistent with that approach then we support them.
it is whether these resolutions sit squarely within the Australian government’s policy. Australia’s longstanding policy on a two-nation-state solution for the Middle East
This government will do nothing to jeopardise our longstanding public policy and foreign policy commitment to a two-nation-state solution for the Middle East.
The Rudd and Gillard Governments have maintained this voting pattern in subsequent sessions of the UNGA.
Australia attended the Durban World Conference against Racism in 2001, which, according to some, focused too much on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. The US and Israeli delegations walked out of the Conference as a result. The Howard Government, in a joint statement by the then Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, and Attorney-General, Daryl Williams, expressed regret:
[A] great deal of time at the Conference had been consumed by divisive exchanges on issues that had done nothing to advance the cause of combating racism. Despite the efforts of many delegations, including Australia's, to achieve a more balanced outcome, the final documents include language on the Middle East which neither helps bring peace to that region nor advances the objectives of this Conference. The Australian delegation made clear at the closing session of the Conference that, while there was much in the final documents which Australia welcomed, there was also some language with which we could not be associated.
In April 2009, the ‘Durban Review Conference’ was held in Geneva, Switzerland. The Australian Government indicated, as late as March 2009, that it was considering attending. Former Foreign Minister Smith stated, however, that ‘if we form the view that the [draft declaration] text is going to lead to nothing more than an anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic harangue and an anti-Jewish propaganda exercise, Australia will not be in attendance’.  On 19 April, Foreign Minister Smith announced that Australia would join other countries in boycotting the Durban Review Conference, arguing:
The Durban Review Conference should be an occasion for the world to unite against racism in all its forms.
Australia has worked with a range of countries in Geneva these past weeks to promote an acceptable outcome document from the Review Conference and to ensure that the Conference does not see a repeat of the problems that marred the Durban World Conference Against Racism in 2001.
These efforts, the hard work of the Russian Chair and the flexibility shown by many countries, has led to significant improvements in the document to be presented to the Conference on Monday.
Australia, however, cannot support a document which reaffirms the 2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action in its entirety — as is currently the case. The 2001 Declaration singled out Israel and the Middle East. Australia expressed strong concerns about this at the time. The Australian Government continues to have these concerns. Regrettably, we cannot be confident that the Review Conference will not again be used as a platform to air offensive views, including anti-Semitic views.
For similar reasons, Australia also boycotted a UN General Assembly meeting—known as ‘Durban III’—on 22 September 2011.
The then Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was acting Prime Minister when the December 2008–January 2009 Gaza conflict began. In an interview on 5 January 2009 Gillard said:
The escalation of the conflict in Israel and Gaza, the new movement of ground troops by Israel obviously underlines the urgency of getting a diplomatic solution to this problem. We’ve said all along that Australia strongly supports the resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations to see a halt to all violence. We obviously want to see an end to this conflict and a lasting solution for peace in the Middle East.
We have condemned in the strongest possible terms the action of Hamas in sending rockets into southern Israel. Obviously, Israel has responded, we’ve now seen a further escalation. We have consistently said we support the United Nations Security Council resolution for a halt to violence, we’re very concerned about casualties amongst civilians caught up in this conflict and we very strongly support the urgent diplomatic efforts that are in train now to find a lasting solution.
We’ve always said we recognise Israel’s right to defend itself, but we have urged Israel to be very mindful of the civilians involved, of the prospect of civilian casualties, and obviously we have seen civilian casualties. And we have been strong in our continuing endorsement of the United Nations Security Council resolution for a halt to all violence.
These comments, particularly the condemnation of Hamas compared with the ‘urging’ of Israel to be mindful of civilians, was interpreted by some as bias towards, or strong support for, Israel.
On 12 January 2009 the United Nations Human Rights Council decided to send a fact-finding mission to Gaza to ‘to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law’ during the recent conflict. The report resulting from this investigation, known as the Goldstone Report, found that war crimes had been committed on both sides of the conflict. Some, however, criticised the report on the grounds that its mandate was one-sided, the report focused too heavily on the actions of Israeli troops, or that the Human Rights Council itself was prejudiced against Israel.
The Australian Government rejected the findings in the Goldstone Report. On 5 November 2009 Australia voted against a UNGA resolution that called for, among other things, the Goldstone Report to be sent to the UN Security Council. Explaining this decision, an Australian representative told the UNGA:
We have voted against this resolution because of a number of genuine concerns arising from the language of the text and the flawed nature of the report it is based on—which we cannot endorse.
Deputy Prime Minister Gillard would later state that it was the Government’s commitment to Israel’s ‘security’ that caused it to vote against the UN General Assembly Resolution.
In May 2010 an Israeli diplomat was expelled from Australia following alleged misuse of Australian passports by Israeli intelligence organisations as part of their alleged involvement in the death of a senior Hamas commander. The so-called ‘passport affair’ is a significant event because of the strong language used by the Australian Government towards Israel.
A month after the death of the Hamas commander, the then Foreign Minister Smith made a statement to parliament highlighting that the authorities in Dubai claimed that three (later four) Australian passport holders were wanted in relation to the man’s death, condemning ‘in the strongest possible terms’ the misuse of Australian passports, and indicating that Australian security agencies would investigate. Later that day Smith stated at a press conference:
… if the results of that investigation cause us to come to the conclusion that the abuse of Australian passports was in any way sponsored or condoned by Israeli officials, then Australia would not regard that as the act of a friend. We would not regard that as the act of a friend.
In late March 2010, the British Government announced that it was expelling an Israeli diplomat from the United Kingdom (UK), stating that there were ‘compelling reasons to believe Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports’. Foreign Minister Smith stated at this time that ‘we will await the results of that investigation by the Australian Federal Police’ before making any decisions regarding the Australian Government’s response.
Australia announced its response on 24 May 2010, with Foreign Minister Smith telling the House of Representatives:
[I]nvestigations and advice have left the government in no doubt that Israel was responsible for the abuse and counterfeiting of these passports. I note that a similar conclusion was reached by the United Kingdom government in the course of their official investigations.
No government can tolerate the abuse of its passports, especially by a foreign government.
These are not the actions of a friend. I regret to advise the House that this is not the first occasion that Australian passports have been misused by Israeli authorities. The Dubai passports incident also constitutes a clear and direct breach of confidential understandings between Australia and Israel dating back some years. This is not what we expect from a nation with whom we have had such a close, friendly and supportive relationship.
After careful deliberation, the government has asked that a member of the Israeli Embassy in Canberra be withdrawn from Australia. I have asked that the withdrawal be effected within the week … Australia regard[s] the abuse of these passports as inconsistent with the friendship and support provided by successive Australian governments to Israel since its creation as a nation. Australia’s relationship with Israel has always been founded on a basis of mutual respect and trust. But Israel’s actions in this regard have undermined that respect and trust.
The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, argued that the Government’s response was an overreaction, and was bound up with the Government’s campaign to win a seat on the UN Security Council. As well as Australia and the UK, Ireland also expelled an Israeli diplomat in June 2010 over the passport affair.
The Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip began in September 2007 when an Israeli security cabinet meeting deemed Gaza to be ‘hostile territory’. From that point until June 2010 severe restrictions were placed on the importation of goods into Gaza. Note that over much of the same period Egypt enforced a blockade along its border with Gaza as well.
Prior to the ‘flotilla incident’ at the end of May 2010, the Australian Government’s line on the blockade was to call for ‘border control to be eased’ or for ‘the opening up of access to Gaza for aid and humanitarian [and] other purposes’, while ensuring that any easing of restrictions did not result in the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.
On 31 May 2010, Israeli commandos boarded a ship, the MV Mavi Marmara, which along with other private vessels was attempting to break the blockade and deliver humanitarian aid directly to Gaza. In what became known as the ‘flotilla incident’, nine activists on board Mavi Marmara were killed, and other activists and Israeli soldiers were injured.
Australia, like many other countries, expressed ‘concern’ over this incident. Prime Minister Rudd told reporters on 1 June 2010:
[T]he Australian Government condemns any use of violence under the sorts of circumstances that we have seen.
Furthermore, we are deeply concerned about the loss of life which has occurred.
The next day, following a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister Rudd addressed the House of Representatives:
I set out [to Prime Minister Netanyahu] the framework in which Australia views this tragedy in my discussion with the Prime Minister, and reflected Australia’s deep concerns over the recent military operation off Gaza.
I indicated that the Australian government was deeply concerned at the loss of life and injuries that had occurred as part of the IDF operation; furthermore, that deaths in these circumstances are deeply disturbing and of deep concern to the Australian people; and, furthermore, that Israel should mount an independent inquiry into the incident so that all the facts can be established and an informed judgment made about the events surrounding the incident of Monday. Furthermore, I reiterated that the Australian government’s position was that more needs to be done to ensure a reasonable continuing supply of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.
Following the flotilla incident, many governments—including those of the UK, France, and Russia—called for an end to the blockade of Gaza. The US Government, while not explicitly calling for an ‘end’ to the blockade, did indicate that pressure was being applied to the Israeli Government to ease the restrictions placed on the import of goods into Gaza. In the aftermath of the flotilla incident, the Australian Government initially called for the blockade to be ‘removed’:
[W]hen it comes to a blockade against Gaza, preventing the supply of humanitarian aid, such a blockade should be removed. We believe that the people of Gaza, letting aside the whole questions of the long-standing dispute and a long-standing war, the people of Gaza should be provided with humanitarian assistance.
Foreign Minister Smith would over the next couple of weeks make a number of statements calling for the blockade to be eased.
In June 2010, the Israeli Government announced that it was easing the blockade of Gaza.
Since coming to power in 2007 the two Labor Governments have made a number of statements about Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The policy contained in these statements has remained fairly consistent. Australian Government officials have not used the term ‘illegal’ or ‘contrary to international law’ in statements criticising Israel over settlement construction—as the Hawke and Keating Governments did—but Australia did change its vote from ‘against’ to ‘in favour’ on a recurring UNGA resolution which defined Israeli settlements as ‘illegal’.
In response to a Question on Notice in October 2009, Foreign Minister Smith outlined Australia’s formal position on Israeli settlements:
The Government’s position is that Israel needs to freeze all settlement activity. This is one of Israel’s obligations under the Roadmap for Middle East peace.
Comments about Israeli settlements under Rudd and Gillard have either called for a settlement ‘freeze’ or have stated that settlements ‘undermine’ or are ‘counter-productive’ to the peace process.
This however contrasts with language used by Howard Government Ministers when discussing Israeli settlements. Prime Minister Howard was once asked specifically whether he thought the ‘Israelis should stop expanding their settlements’ and he responded by stating:
I’m not going to express a view on that. I come here as somebody who wants the [peace] process to work and not as a foreigner giving gratuitous advice to either side.
On another occasion Prime Minister Howard said that he had asked then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to ‘understand why the Palestinians [rather than the Australian Government] view the expansion of Israeli settlements as provocative’. Foreign Minister Downer, on occasion, used stronger language, without specifically stating that Israeli settlement practices negatively impacted on the peace process. In January 2004, Downer stated that the Israeli Government had an ‘obligation’ to freeze settlement construction.
The Palestinians bid for unilateral statehood (and/or recognition by the UN) is arguably the most important development in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the August 2010 Australian federal election.
Following Brazil’s recognition of a Palestinian state in December 2010, then Foreign Minister Rudd was asked whether Australia would support a request from the PA to recognise ‘Palestine’, should it receive one. Rudd responded:
[We] appreciate the reality that this [two-state solution] will be shaped very much by the current peace process and that the questions of a final state of settlement include many unresolved questions including boundaries and other matters which are yet to be determined. Therefore we believe it’s appropriate to await the conclusion of those deliberations.
More recently, while the PA was seeking to have its unilateral bid for statehood recognised by the UNGA, Prime Minister Julia Gillard wrote in The Australian:
Like most people across the world, not least our friends in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Australia aspires to see a future Palestinian state existing alongside Israel in peace and security. We are strong backers of a two-state solution and we firmly support all initiatives that contribute constructively to this end.
As is well known, efforts to reach a peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people face significant challenges and progress has been halting for many years. Many sincere and determined efforts to break the impasse have not succeeded and the sense of stalemate has led many to look for alternative answers.
Ultimately, however, the only durable basis for resolution of this conflict is negotiation. However hard it may be, it is only through negotiation between the two sides that final status issues such as borders, security and Jerusalem can be solved.
Australia understands the sense of frustration the impasse in peace talks has brought and we understand the strong desire of Palestinians to have their own state. If a Palestinian statehood resolution is introduced to the General Assembly we will consider it carefully and will consult widely before making our decision on how we will vote. But no UN resolution will change present realities on the ground. That is why we believe direct negotiation is the only true path to peace.
The PA submitted its application to the UN for membership on 23 September 2011, but they did not fully pursue its bid as the US threatened to veto the move in the Security Council. The PA instead sought to become the 195th member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), which voted on 31 October 2011 to admit ‘Palestine’. Australia, along with 13 other members, voted against admitting ‘Palestine’ to UNESCO. 
Members of the Rudd and Gillard Governments have, on occasion, outlined Australia’s position on the Middle East conflict and stated the Government’s position on what a final peace settlement should look like. Some of these statements, especially while Kevin Rudd was Foreign Minister from September 2010 to February 2012, went further in terms of their prescription than previous Australian Government public statements. In February 2011, Foreign Minister Rudd suggested:
Many of us who are friends of Israel and friends of the Palestinian people are familiar with the broad architecture of a comprehensive settlement which would create a two state solution — an independent and secure Israeli state and an independent and secure Palestinian state.
These elements include the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps; the question of the right of return; the question of Jerusalem and the holy sites; as well as necessary security guarantees.
It should be noted that this was the first time since the 1960s that an Australian Government official had referred to the 1967 borders as a basis for a final peace settlement. Rudd’s statement preceded a similar statement made by US President Barack Obama in May 2011.
On numerous occasions, Rudd also tried to draw a link between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the issues surrounding the Iranian nuclear program and Iran’s supposed regional designs. In a press conference following his address to the UNGA in September 2011, Rudd argued:
[I]f the question of Palestine is finally put to rest through delivering to the Palestinian people an independent homeland, with secure borders alongside an independent, secure Israel, then the strategic focus of the Middle East then ends up where it ultimately, truly belongs — and that is, focusing on the threat to the region represented by Iran, Iran’s support for terrorist organisations and the Iranian nuclear program.
Similarly, when discussing the regional benefits of a final resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Foreign Minister Rudd stated in February 2011:
[Peace would] potentially unite much of the Arab world with Israel in addressing the overarching strategic threat posed by Iran. And Iran remains the core strategic challenge faced by us all. Iran’s nuclear program and its support for international terrorist organisations would then come under challenge from across the Arab world, as well as for Israel.
There are a couple of areas where post-2007 Labor Government statements and actions evidently differ from that of the 1996–2007 Howard Government regarding the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The most obvious and measurable difference is Australia’s voting pattern at the UNGA. Another less conclusive difference concerns the way the Australian Government responded to the ‘passport affair’. Former Foreign Minister Downer labelled the Rudd Government’s decision to expel an Israeli diplomat in May 2010 as a ‘triumph of politics’ and a ‘folly’, suggesting perhaps that the Howard Government would not have chosen this path.
Similarly, it is difficult to conclude that the post-2007 increase in aid to the PA, represents an actual change in policy. Faced with similar circumstances, a Coalition Government may also have increased development assistance to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, although how similar any such increase would have been to that provided by the post-2007 Labor Governments, is impossible to determine.
As has been the case with previous changes of government in Australia, the main difference between the post-2007 Labor Governments and the preceding Coalition Government is the language used in discussing the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and the tone of public statements. For example, the Rudd and Gillard Governments have more routinely criticised Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank than did the previous Government, and used some unusually strong language in relation to the blockade of Gaza and the passport affair.
However, in broad terms the Rudd and Gillard Governments have maintained the Howard Government’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—support for Israel to exist within secure and recognised boundaries (including supporting Israel’s ‘right to defend itself’) and support for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.
. A total of US$7.7 billion was pledged by the international community to the Palestinian territories at the Paris Donors Conference; see The World Bank, Implementing the Palestinian Reform and Development Agenda, The World Bank, Washington DC, May 2008, p. 2, viewed 14 June 2012, http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWESTBANKGAZA/Resources/WorldBankAHLCMay2,08.pdf; and I Black, ‘Paris donor nations pledge billions for Palestinians’, The Guardian, 17 December 2007, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/dec/17/france.israel
. Figures from 1999–00 until 2010–11 are from AusAID annual reports and AusAID ‘statistical summaries’. The figures for 2011–12 and 2012–13 are from B Carr (Minister for Foreign Affairs), Budget: Australia’s international development assistance program: 2012–13: Helping the world’s poor: implementing effective aid, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 8 May 2012, viewed 14 June 2012, p. 14, http://www.budget.gov.au/2012-13/content/ministerial_statements/ausaid/download/ausaid.pdf. Note that the 2011–12 and 2012–13 figures are budget estimates.
. On the election of Hamas see AD Pina, ‘Palestinian elections’, CRS Report for Congress, Congressional Research Service, Washington DC, 9 February 2006, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33269.pdf; on the Hamas takeover of Gaza see T Youngs and B Smith, Hamas and the seizure of Gaza, Research Paper 07/60, House of Commons Library, London, 6 July 2007, viewed 14 June 2012, http://dpl/e-ancats/GBHouseCommons_ResearchPaper/RP07.60_Hamas.pdf; and ‘A pyrrhic victory’, The Guardian, 16 June 2007, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/jun/16/israel.comment
. Australian Government, Listing of terrorist organisations: Hamas’s Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Australian National Security website, updated 30 January 2012, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/agd/WWW/nationalsecurity.nsf/Page/What_Governments_are_doing_Listing_of_Terrorism_Organisations_Hamas' for more information on the listing of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades see N Brew and M Donaldson, Criminal Code Amendment (Hamas and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba) Bill 2003, Bills Digest, no. 60, 2003–04, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2003, viewed 14 June 2012, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/legislation/billsdgs/1UTA6/upload_binary/1uta610.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf#search=%22legislation/billsdgs/1UTA6%22
. It should be noted that the US Government also dramatically increased its aid to the Palestinians in 2007–08. US bilateral assistance to the Palestinians increased from US$69.5 million in the 2007 fiscal year (FY) to US$414.5 million in FY2008 and US$980.7 million in FY2009; J Zanotti, ‘The Palestinians: background and US relations’, CRS Report for Congress, Congressional Research Service, Washington DC, 30 August 2011, p. 11, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL34074.pdf
. Palestinian National Authority, Palestine: ending the occupation, establishing the state: program of the Thirteenth Government, Palestinian National Authority, Ramallah, released in English in August 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.mideastweb.org/palestine_state_program.htm
. On Fayyadism see TL Friedman, ‘Green shoots in Palestine’, New York Times, 4 August 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/05/opinion/05friedman.html?_r=1; N Thrall, ‘Our man in Palestine’, New York Review of Books, 16 September 2010, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/oct/14/our-man-palestine/?pagination=false#fnr2-852514943; T Alhomayed, ‘Salam Fayyad: a brave man’, Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat, 6 February 2010, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=2&id=19780; and B Birnbaum, ‘The visionary: a Palestinian reformer’s downfall’, New Republic, vol. 243 (4923), 24 May 2012, pp. 14–18, viewed 14 June 2012, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22library%2Fjrnart%2F1758410%22
. Quoted in N Thrall, ‘Our man in Palestine’, op. cit.
. In 2009 Israeli and PA forces took part in 1297 ‘coordinated activities’, many of them against Palestinian militant groups; see State of Israel, Measures taken by Israel in support of developing the Palestinian economy, the socio-economic structure, and the security reforms: report of the Government of Israel to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), Madrid, 13 April 2010, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.mfa.gov.il/NR/rdonlyres/64676E73-7E29-4C86-B83F-57245F07EA51/0/donorsapril2010.pdf; A Pfeffer, ‘West Bank sees lowest IDF troop levels since first intifada’, Haaretz, 28 November 2010, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/west-bank-sees-lowest-idf-troop-levels-since-first-intifada-1.327262
. For some opposition to this move see P Hudson, ‘UN vote: Rudd breaks with Howard over Israel’, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 November 2008, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2008/11/09/1226165386581.html; and N Levin, ‘Australian Government denies United Nations policy shift’, Australian Jewish News, 27 November 2009, p. 3.
. See United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), A/RES/63/96: Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories, 18 December 2008, viewed 14 June 2012, http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/58630479BA90FA408525752B004F2D6B; UNGA, A/RES/63/97: Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan, 18 December 2008, viewed 14 June 2012, http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/26E47D8AB56749A78525753C0058D460; and UNGA, A/RES/64/150: The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, 19 December 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N09/470/83/PDF/N0947083.pdf?OpenElement
. See the voting record of the UNGA for the 61st Session (November–December 2006): United Nations General Assembly, Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly at its 61st session, UN website, updated 2 May 2012, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/resguide/r61.htm. Howard Government Foreign Minister Alexander Downer argued in defending its votes at the UNGA that ‘too many of these resolutions are aimed at condemning Israel…these UNGA resolutions single Israel out for blame in the most inflammatory and biased of language’; A Downer (Minister for Foreign Affairs),‘Speech to the Annual General Meeting of the United Israel Appeal of New South Wales: The Australia-Israel relationship over recent times: How it has evolved under the Howard Government, transcript, media release, 30 November 2005, viewed 14 June 2012, http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/25167/20081110-0000/www.foreignminister.gov.au/speeches/2005/051130_united_israel_appeal.html
. A Downer (Minister for Foreign Affairs) and D Williams (Attorney-General), Australia welcomes conclusion of World Conference against Racism, media release, 10 September 2001, viewed 14 June 2012, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressrel%2F0RW46%22; for the final communiqué issued from the 2001 Durban Conference see World Conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance: declaration, 8 September 2001, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.un.org/WCAR/durban.pdf
. S Smith (Minister for Foreign Affairs), Durban Review Conference, media release, 19 April 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/media/pressrel/XIBT6/upload_binary/xibt60.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf#search=%22media/pressrel/XIBT6%22; the following countries boycotted the Durban Review Conference: Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, United States. For information on what occurred at the Durban Review Conference see ‘Ahmadinejad prompts walkout from U.N. racism summit’, Reuters, 20 April 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/04/20/us-racism-un-idUSLJ34980320090420; ‘UN meeting on racism adopts final declaration’, AFP, 20 April 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hoZFao6mShkLsCHW505o1wQf0iTA; and S Shamir and N Mozgoyvaya, ‘US to boycott Durban 2 conference on racism’, Haaretz, 27 February 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.haaretz.com/news/u-s-to-boycott-durban-2-conference-on-racism-1.271097
. For more on the December 2008–January 2009 conflict in Gaza see S Jones, Gaza: the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Standard Note SN/IA/04946, House of Commons Library, London, 22 January 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN04946
. See for example B Zwartz, ‘Muslims furious at Gaza “bias”’, The Age, 7 February 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/media/pressclp/91QS6/upload_binary/91qs62.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf#search=%22media/pressclp/91QS6%22; J Drape, ‘Gillard refuses to chide Israel’, Sunday Tasmanian, 4 January 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/media/pressclp/L2HS6/upload_binary/l2hs62.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf#search=%22media/pressclp/L2HS6%22; N Levin, ‘Australia remains in Israel’s corner’, Australian Jewish News, 16 January 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/library/jrnart/D5LS6/upload_binary/d5ls60.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf#search=%22library/jrnart/D5LS6%22; and Senator B Brown (Leader of the Australian Greens), Israeli attack on the United Nations, media release, 16 January 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://bob-brown.greensmps.org.au/content/media-releases/israeli-attack-united-nations
. The original 12 January 2009 decision by the UN Human Rights Council sought to investigate violations of international law by ‘the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian people...in the occupied Gaza Strip’; meaning there would be no investigation of possible violations by Hamas. The final mandate, agreed on 3 April 2009, did not single out Israel, implying, but not stating explicitly, that Hamas and other Palestinian groups would be investigated as well. See United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Report of the Human Rights Council on its ninth special session, 27 February 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/9/index.htm; and UNHRC, ‘United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict’, various dates, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/9/FactFindingMission.htm
. For perspectives on the debate surrounding the Goldstone Report see B Plett, ‘Legal row over Gaza report intensifies’, BBC News, 6 November 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8347861.stm; State of Israel, Initial response to report of the fact finding mission on Gaza established pursuant of Resolution S–9/1 of the Human Rights Council, 24 September 2009, p. 1, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.mfa.gov.il/NR/rdonlyres/FC985702-61C4-41C9-8B72-E3876FEF0ACA/0/GoldstoneReportInitialResponse240909.pdf; B Ravid, ‘Netanyahu asks world to reject Goldstone findings’, Haaretz, 5 November 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=1115418&contrassID=0&subContrassID=0; A Hass, ‘Gazans: IDF used us as “human shields” during offensive’, Haaretz, 26 October 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1065594.html; N MacFarquhar, ‘Inquiry finds Gaza war crimes from both sides’, New York Times, 15 September 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/16/world/middleeast/16gaza.html?_r=1&hpw; and Human Rights Watch, Israel/Gaza: implement Goldstone recommendations on Gaza, media release, 16 September 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, , http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/09/16/israelgaza-implement-goldstone-recommendations-gaza
. For information on the assassination and Australia’s response, see ‘“Mossad” hit snares Australians’, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 February 2010, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.smh.com.au/national/mossad-hit-snares-australians-20100225-p60e.html?skin=text-only; R Bergman, ‘The Dubai job’, GQ, January 2011, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.gq.com/news-politics/big-issues/201101/the-dubai-job-mossad-assassination-hamas; and J Stewart, Israeli-Australia relations cool over passports affair’, Lateline, 24 May 2010, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2010/s2908191.htm
. S Smith (Minister for Foreign Affairs), Interview – Afternoons on ABC News Radio, transcript, media release, 3 March 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.foreignminister.gov.au/transcripts/2009/090303_afternoons.html; and United Nations Security Council, Speakers weigh ‘Goldstone Report’ on recent conflict in Gaza Strip, media release, 14 October 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2009/sc9767.doc.htm
. For more on this incident see C Migdalovitz, ‘Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the Mavi Marmara incident, and its aftermath’, CRS Report for Congress, Congressional Research Service, Washington DC, 23 June 2010, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/R41275.pdf; and B Smith and A Thorp, The Gaza flotilla attack and its aftermath, Standard Note SN/IA/5637, House of Commons Library, London, 8 July 2010, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN05637
. K Rudd (Prime Minister), Joint press conference, transcript, media release, 1 June 2010, viewed 14 June 2012, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/media/pressrel/VMWW6/upload_binary/VMWW6.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf#search=%22media/pressrel/VMWW6%22; for the UK Government’s response to the flotilla incident see W Hague (British Foreign Secretary), Foreign Secretary's statement to the House of Commons on Gaza flotilla, media release, 2 June 2010, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=PressS&id=22313385; and for the US Government’s initial response see US State Department, Free Gaza Flotilla, media release, 31 May 2010, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2010/05/142386.htm
. Rudd, Joint press conference, 1 June 2010, op. cit.
. Some other states/institutions, such as the European Union, continue to use the term ‘illegal under international law’ when discussing Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; see for example Council of the European Union, Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on Israeli decision regarding settlements, media release, 18 December 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/cfsp/112007.pdf
. See for example S Smith (Minister for Foreign Affairs), Speech at lunch hosted by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry at the Adele Southwick Centre St Kilda Hebrew Congregation: Australia and Israel, transcript, media release, 19 May 2009, viewed 14 June 2012, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.foreignminister.gov.au/speeches/2009/090519_aus_il.html; S Smith (Minister for Foreign Affairs), Interview with Kieran Gilbert, transcript, media release, 11 March 2010, viewed 14 June 2012, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressrel%2FH69W6%22; K Rudd (Minister for Foreign Affairs), Joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit, transcript, media release, 11 December 2010, viewed 14 June 2012, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressrel%2F427076%22; and Senator B Carr (Minister for Foreign Affairs), Israeli settlements, media release, 10 April 2012, viewed 14 June 2012, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/media/pressrel/1558257/upload_binary/1558257.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf#search=%22media/pressrel/1558257%22
. For more on the 2011 campaign by the Palestinian Authority (West Bank) to achieve diplomatic recognition as a ‘state, and on the possibility of a unilateral declaration of independence’, see A Shatz, ‘Is Palestine next?’ London Review of Books, 14 July 2011, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.fmep.org/analysis/analysis/is-palestine-next; K Vick, ‘The Palestinians' statehood dilemma: full U.N. Membership or Observer Status?’ Time Magazine, 1 September 2011, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2091317,00.html; The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, ‘Fact Sheet: Palestinian Unilateral Declaration of Independence,’ Jewish Virtual Library, 23 September 2011, viewed 14 June 2012, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/talking/81_PalestinianUDI.html; and the Palestine 194 website, no date, viewed 14 June 2012, http://palestine194.org/
. Those that voted against were: Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Palau, Panama, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sweden, United States of America, and Vanuatu. A further 52 members abstained. See ‘UNESCO vote to admit Palestine: Who objected?’ UN Watch, 1 November 2011, viewed 14 June 2012, http://blog.unwatch.org/index.php/2011/11/01/unesco-vote-to-admit-palestine-how-the-countries-voted/
. K Rudd (Minister for Foreign Affairs), Australian Foreign Policy and recent developments in the Middle East: speech at the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research, Athens, media release, 2 February 2011, viewed 14 June 2012, http://foreignminister.gov.au/speeches/2011/kr_sp_110202.html; Rudd made a similar reference to the 1967 borders during his address to the UN General Assembly in September 2011: K Rudd (Minister for Foreign Affairs), Australian Statement to the UN General Assembly, media release, 22 September 2011, viewed 14 June 2012, http://foreignminister.gov.au/speeches/2011/kr_sp_110922.html
. Rudd, Australian Foreign Policy and recent developments in the Middle East, op. cit.
For copyright reasons some linked items are only available to members of Parliament.
© Commonwealth of Australia
In essence, you are free to copy and communicate this work in its current form for all non-commercial purposes, as long as you attribute the work to the author and abide by the other licence terms. The work cannot be adapted or modified in any way. Content from this publication should be attributed in the following way: Author(s), Title of publication, Series Name and No, Publisher, Date.
To the extent that copyright subsists in third party quotes it remains with the original owner and permission may be required to reuse the material.
Inquiries regarding the licence and any use of the publication are welcome to email@example.com.
This work has been prepared to support the work of the Australian Parliament using information available at the time of production. The views expressed do not reflect an official position of the Parliamentary Library, nor do they constitute professional legal opinion.
Feedback is welcome and may be provided to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Any concerns or complaints should be directed to the Parliamentary Librarian. Parliamentary Library staff are available to discuss the contents of publications with Senators and Members and their staff. To access this service, clients may contact the author or the Library‘s Central Entry Point for referral.