23 July 2015

A sane voice amongst the few obsessives and cranks within the ALP

From The Australian, 24 July 2015, by :

...Labor senator Joe Bullock has accused “a few obsessives within the ALP’’ and “cranks’’ of seeking to “undermine the ­bipartisan commitment to a two-state solution” for Israel and ­Palestine. 
Writing in The Australian today, Senator Bullock pulls no punches in attacking what he warns is a “reckless, poorly thought-out and frankly foolish motion urging the immediate ­recognition of a state of Palestine’’.

“For those of us genuinely committed to a two-state solution and a lasting peace, the position put by proponents of ‘statehood now’ is counterproductive,’’ Senator Bullock says. “It is war masquerading as peace, hostility disguised as kindness.”

...Tony Burke...is expected to move a resolution which is likely to reflect the ...motion from the NSW ALP conference last year, which was drafted by former NSW premier and former foreign minister Bob Carr. It stated if there was no progress towards a two-state solution and Israel continued to build and expand settlements, then a future Labor government would “consult like-minded nations towards ­recognition of the Palestinian state’’.

...and from The Australian, 24 July 2015, by Senator Joe Bullock*:

In my maiden Senate speech a year ago, after a lifetime of representing retail workers, members of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, I promised the Senate I would continue to be a voice for shop assistants and ordinary working people who carried this country forward on their shoulders.
In the wake of the first Abbott budget, I determined to focus on core issues for the average Australian: secure jobs, accessible and affordable education, the protection of Medicare, a fair go for seniors and pensioners. As I said in that speech, a lifetime of representing working people is not easily set aside, nor should it be.

Naturally I assumed the Labor Party, my party, would share this focus.

I did not imagine that at its first national conference since the election of the present Liberal government a few obsessives within the ALP would choose to concentrate instead on the Middle East peace process.

Much less did I imagine that these cranks would seek to undermine the bipartisan commitment to a two-state solution with a reckless, poorly thought-out and frankly foolish motion urging the immediate recognition of a state of Palestine.

Yet here we are.

It would appear to be stating the obvious to say that all sides in this discussion want to see a resolution of the conflict on the basis of “two states for two peoples”. And so, in this context, it is quite accurate to say that everyone, certainly within the ALP, supports a Palestinian state. However, sensible people recognise the vast gulf between wanting to see a Palestinian state established within a framework of secure borders, the renunciation of violence and terrorism, and a final peace settlement on the one hand and, on the other, demanding a Palestinian state be established at once without regard for these issues.

The advocates of immediate recognition have never answered five key questions about their position.

First, how can a state exist without agreed borders? The Palestinian people do not fulfil the Montevideo Convention requirements for statehood and recognition under international law. How can one recognise a state that does not exist on the ground?

Second, given the lack of democracy and democratic institutions — including the protection of minority rights — in the Palestinian areas, how can the rights of the people within those states be safeguarded and guaranteed?

Third, given that Hamas (a registered terrorist organisation) controls Gaza while Fatah controls the West Bank, how would the question of leadership be resolved? We are dealing here with two rival potential governments, one of them a theocracy. How is this practically managed?

Fourth, and perhaps most important, what incentives would exist for the Palestinian leadership to renounce terrorism, cease attacks on Israel and negotiate a settled, comprehensive peace if they are recognised as a state without being required to do any of these things?

Finally, why the focus on Israel and Palestine? The peoples of, say, Kurdistan or Assyria are equally if not more deserving of their own states, and in much better shape on the ground to assume the responsibilities of nationhood. Why do we hear not a peep from the Left and their fellow travellers about these issues — but only about the Palestinians, and only when it involves Israel?

It is fashionable now to say the Israeli settlements are the cause of all the trouble, or that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a barrier on the path to peace. Yet while Israel will have to give ground on settlements (subject to being able to maintain its border security), so too will the Palestinians have to let go of the fiction that all descendants of the original Palestinian people are themselves refugees, with a “right of return”.

Israel has accepted and put forward proposals for a Palestinian state many times — in 1947, in 2000, in 2001 and in 2008 — while facing attempts to wipe it off the map in 1947, 1967 and 1973. Settlements did not create, nor will their abolition solve, the fundamental problem of Arab rejectionism.

As for Netanyahu, every remark made by the Prime Minister that has drawn criticism pales in comparison to far worse statements from Palestinian leaders denying Israel’s right to exist. The charter of Hamas itself calls for the extermination of all Jews, speaking longingly of the days when even the trees themselves would connive in the genocide of the Israeli nation.

For those of us genuinely committed to a two-state solution and a lasting peace, the position put by proponents of “statehood now” is counterproductive. It is war masquerading as peace, hostility disguised as kindness.

Palestinian statehood is not a “Jewish” issue (the happily Protestant Bullocks hail from Staffordshire), nor should it be seen in the context of taking sides between Israelis and Palestinians. It is a question of what will produce lasting results.

Israel and the Palestinian people do not need an ALP resolution — they need a genuine resolution.

*Joe Bullock is a Labor senator for Western Australia.