Australia to abstain from Palestinian vote
By Alexandra Kirk and staff
Updated Tue Nov 27, 2012 6:45pm AEDT Photo:
Bob Carr says Australia's decision will not affect its relationship with the US. (AAP: Lukas Coch)
Australia will abstain from a vote later this week on whether the Palestinian territories should be granted observer status at the United Nations.
The issue has prompted heated debate among Labor MPs, with some in the Left suggesting a vote in favour of the Palestinian territories would promote peace.
The ABC understands Julia Gillard wanted to vote against the plan but was under pressure from her party to vote yes.
Backbencher Andrew Leigh planned to put a motion to today's caucus meeting calling for Australia to back Palestinian membership, but withdrew it once Ms Gillard proposed Australia abstain from the UN vote.
Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr says the Prime Minister has shown strong leadership over the issue and that voting no would have indicated Australia did not support Palestinian statehood in any context.
He says Ms Gillard made the right decision in deciding Australia would abstain.
"I saw a Prime Minister engaging with party opinion, listening to what people had to say from all over the nation, and from every corner of Labor opinion and doing what good leaders do, and that is speak for the whole party," he said.
"This vote had become a referendum on the idea of a Palestinian state, and if we'd voted no it would be widely interpreted that we don't support Palestinian statehood."
A clear majority of countries is expected to support the resolution, however abstaining puts Australia in a different position to Israel, which opposes granting the territories observer status. 'Cause of peace'
I genuinely believed (voting no) would be a foreign policy catastrophe and one of the worst decisions we could possibly make if we were to go down this particular path.
Former foreign minister Gareth Evans
Former foreign minister Gareth Evans has been briefing MPs, and former prime minister Bob Hawke made his views known.
Both are strong supporters of Israel, but they are in favour of Palestinian observer status.
Mr Evans says he thinks Israel has misread the situation by not recognising that the best way to shore up the Palestinian National Authority is to support the resolution.
He told Alexandra Kirk from PM that if they did not, the wind would be in Hamas's sails.
"My very strong view was that to vote no on this resolution would be not to help the cause of peace, not to help Israel, and to be putting Australia absolutely on the wrong side of history in terms of our region and in terms of our capacity to be a credible and effective performer on the Security Council over the next two years," he said.
"I genuinely believed that this would be a foreign policy catastrophe and one of the worst decisions we could possibly make if we were to go down this particular path."
Professor Evans said he was happy to recommend to MPs that Australia abstain, calling it an "entirely defensible fallback" to a yes vote.
"A yes vote or an abstention vote were equally acceptable and would be equally understood internationally," he said.
"It's a no vote that would have created huge problems for us." 'Honourable position'Audio: Listen to Alexandra Kirk's report(PM)
The United States is expected to side with Israel and also oppose observer status.
Senator Carr says the decision to abstain will not damage Australia's relationship with the US.
He says Australia is entitled to make foreign policy decisions which are different from America's.
"We're a Labor Government, and from time to time we'll have a difference with the United States," he said.
"I think it's very easy to work with the Obama administration, but from time to time there'll be differences of emphasis.
"This is in the tradition of Labor governments running independent foreign policies."
Senator Carr says the decision to abstain is one both he and the Prime Minister believe in.
"The Palestinian resolution is going to get carried anyway," he said.
"Australia can say we're not opposing it, and that's excellent. That's a very good position for us to be in.
"I've been through all of these arguments in my time seeking the Security Council seat. This is an honourable position for Australia." Disappointed
Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop says she is disappointed by the Government's decision.
"The Coalition believes Australia should vote against this bid as we do not believe that this is the path to peace and reconciliation between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples," she said.
"Our concern is that the drive for greater recognition at the United Nations is an attempt by Palestinian leaders to enable them to bring action against Israel through the international courts.
"It also risks conferring increased international status on the militant group Hamas which governs Gaza.
"This action is likely to escalate and prolong the conflict, rather than lead to a resolution of disputes."
I am glad that our prime minister listened to her party , i would prefer a yes vote , but i can live with our governments decision .
Edited by The Ratiocinator, 28 November 2012 - 09:29 PM.
"These are the things to keep in mind. These are not just academic exercises. We're not analyzing the media on Mars or in the eighteenth century or something like that. We're dealing with real human beings who are suffering and dying and being tortured and starving because of policies that we are involved in, we as citizens of democratic societies are directly involved in and are responsible for, and what the media are doing is ensuring that we do not act on our responsibilities, and that the interests of power are served, not the needs of the suffering people, and not even the needs of the American people who would be horrified if they realized the blood that's dripping from their hands because of the way they are allowing themselves to be deluded and manipulated by the system."
Jesus didn’t say yes to everyone. I mean Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it is not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia
Tony Abbott......Current Australian PM