Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has accused Greens leader Richard Di Natale of “caving in” to extremists after he denied endorsing Israel as “a Jewish state”.
Senator Di Natale was quoted discussing the two-state solution after assuming the leadership last month.
Asked by The Australian Jewish News if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas should acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, he replied: “Of course. How can you have a two-state solution when you refuse to acknowledge the right of one state to exist?
“It’s patently nonsense.”
The comments sparked a storm on social media among factions of the Greens, Palestinian activists and the broad left.
The Socialist Alternative weekly newspaper Red Flag accused the Greens leader of “back(ing) Israeli apartheid”.
Senator Di Natale’s office then wrote to the AJN saying:
“In Richard’s full response to the interview question, it is clear that he is talking about a state for Israelis and a state for Palestinians.This in turn has provoked a backlash from the Jewish community and criticism from the government and Labor.
“He had no intention for his comments to be interpreted as support for establishment of a ‘Jewish state’. It’s not a phrase that he used.”
Ms Bishop said she was “disappointed” by the episode.
“Richard Di Natale has caved in to the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment and sanctions activists in the green movement,” she said.
Labor MP Michael Danby said the episode undermined “the image of moderation that the Greens political party is so desperate to cultivate’’.
He said other parties would be “excoriated” over such a reversal.
“It is an indictment of the media advocates in organisations like The Age that this promise and its reversal is not reported as it would destroy the part of the story that the Greens are not as hardline and militant as they were in the past,” he said.
Executive Council of Australia Jewry head Peter Wertheim said the senator had “been bullied by the far-left zealots in his party into adopting a position on this issue that is intellectually and morally untenable”.
"I now look forward to the Greens withdrawing recognition from the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Islamic Republic of Iran because of the unacceptable ethnic and religious identifiers in the official names of these states," he said.
“To lecture other countries about their identity, and to refuse to recognise and respect the way they define themselves, is a truly unique approach to international relations.”
B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich said the Greens’ approach denied the Jewish people the right to self-determination...