13 July 2017

Kim Beazley’s wise counsel to the ALP

From The Australian, 13 July 2017, by Greg Sheridan:

Kim Beazley. 
Picture: Allison Shelley

Ex-Labor leader Kim Beazley has savaged a proposed resolution to be considered by the NSW branch which calls for a future Labor government to extend unconditional and immediate diplomatic recognition to a state of Palestine.

He said the resolution “is gesture politics and is simply not helpful”. In an interview with The Australian, the former ambassador to the US said the resolution “assumes the status of a gesture without any merit in reality”.

The resolution is supported by the ALP’s NSW left and appears to have won the support also of the NSW right. It would fundamentally reverse Labor’s long-held position in support of Israel, and in support of a negotiated, two-state solution which provides for Israel’s right to exist within ¬secure borders and the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for an independent state.

Mr Beazley said that ...The NSW resolution makes no requests or demands of the Palestinian leadership.

Dennis Ross, the former Middle East co-ordinator for Bill Clinton and later a senior adviser on the Middle East for Barack Obama’s administration, also told The Australian that he opposed unconditional, unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

“The Palestinians have been plagued by a historic emphasis on symbols not substance,” Mr Ross said. “Instead of building a state they want a flag at the UN. With symbols, nothing is required of the Palestinians.”

Mr Beazley said extending formal diplomatic recognition “is a serious international legal business”. “There’s a recognised set of criteria that bring about diplomatic recognition,” he said. “They are that a state has recognised boundaries, a clear-cut government and control of the affairs of state. On any of those criteria, Palestine does not meet it.

“Its borders are not settled. It is not in control of the affairs of state. And it has two governments (one in Gaza, one in the West Bank).”

Bill Shorten has reiterated his support for existing Labor policy, which is embodied in a more balanced and moderate resolution ...

Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek and foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong have both distanced themselves from the proposed NSW resolution.

Mr Ross told The Australian [that he] had demands of the Palestinian leadership, such as that it stop funding the Martyrs Foundation which rewards the families of terrorists who kill Israeli civilians. “Rewarding those who kill Israelis reinforces the idea it’s OK to kill Israelis,” Mr Ross said. ...no comprehensive agreement is possible in the short term, calling for Israel to immediately withdraw from the West Bank was unrealistic.

In an exclusive interview with The Australian earlier this year, ¬Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [said that] “The question is not whether the Palestinians get a state but whether that state will recognise Israel or continue to seek Israel’s destruction...’
also by Greg Sheridan:

Nod to Palestine an ignorant and regressive idea

The NSW Labor Party, under the shameful influence of its once great right-wing faction, is about to pass a resolution on the Middle East that is a disgrace in principle, is semi-publicly but earnestly opposed by Bill Shorten, Tanya Plibersek, Richard Marles and Penny Wong, and will be an embarrassment to the Labor Party.

Former leader Kim Beazley describes it as gesture politics unrelated to the real world. The resolution reflects a kind of sectarian nastiness and regression in the party’s internal culture.‘Oh, and one more thing. It will make it that bit harder for Labor to win the next federal election.

The resolution will call on the next Labor government to unconditionally and immediately extend diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine. The sponsors want it to become national Labor policy at a federal conference next year.

It would replace the 2015 national resolution, which supports the two-state solution and calls on the Israeli government to halt building settlements in the West Bank, but also calls for a negotiated agreement between the two parties.

That resolution acknowledges Israel’s right to exist within secure borders and the Palestinians’ legitimate aspiration to nationhood. The existing resolution says if there is no progress a future Labor government could discuss with like-minded nations possible future recognition of a Palestinian state, if that contributes to the peace process.

The last part is ill advised because it encourages the Palestinian leadership to believe it can get a state without having to compromise on those of its demands that are unreasonable and impossible to implement. Nonetheless it is a balanced policy that a self-respecting social democratic party can -defend.

The proposed unilateral and unconditional recognition of a Palestinian state, on the other hand, can really emanate only from an unbalanced hostility to Israel or an ignorance of the circumstances on the ground. Either way, the support by the NSW right for this demonstrates the complete death of its old culture of decency and strategic responsibility.

Once the NSW right was the best strand in Australian political culture, the guardian of Labor’s strategic common sense, its connection with the values of ordinary Australians. Now it looks like a self-seeking machine prepared to cave in on any principle to avoid a fight. Numerous NSW unions know this is a dud resolution but won’t fight.

Typically, former Labor ministers become less reliable guides to good policy the further away they are from holding office. Beazley, who until five minutes ago was ambassador to the US, is by a long distance the most authoritative Labor figure on strategic issues and the Middle East.

His assessment of the NSW resolution? “It has the status of a gesture without merit in reality. The issue of diplomatic recognition is a serious international legal business. There’s a recognised set of criteria that bring about diplomatic recognition. These are that a state has recognised boundaries, a clear-cut government and control of the affairs of state. On any of those criteria Palestine does not meet it. Its borders are not settled. It is not in control of the affairs of state. And it has two governments (one in Gaza, one in the West Bank).

...The NSW resolution is, of course, entirely one-sided. It is born out prejudice and baked in ignorance. Almost nothing said in its defence is true.

Last week I had lunch with Dennis Ross, who was the Middle East co-ordinator for Bill Clinton and then a senior adviser on the Middle East for Barack Obama...

Ross told me he strongly opposed gestures such as the unconditional recognition of a Palestinian state. Such gestures contribute nothing to the peace process and are counterproductive because they reinforce the tragic mistake the Palestinian leadership has made in always preferring symbolism over substance, “to seek a flag rather than build a society”.

Ross... also says [that] Israel could not possibly immediately withdraw from the West Bank.

...At the time of the Oslo Accords, and as late as 2000, the overwhelming Israeli sentiment was in favour of an immediate and generous two-state solution. As Bill Clinton has recounted, the Palestinian leadership walked away from these offers. Since then, the history of Palestinian terrorism, and especially the missile attacks on Israel launched from the Gaza Strip, from which Israel withdrew unilaterally, and the internal bloodletting among Palestinian factions there, has convinced all parts of Israeli politics that no such solution is available right now.

Nonetheless the Netanyahu government, and Israeli public opinion, still favour a two-state solution when that becomes possible. Netanyahu has many times reaffirmed this publicly...

Ross also tells me one of the main obstacles to peace is that the Palestinian leadership has never accepted the legitimacy of a Jewish national movement, which is why it won’t recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

Both Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong have criticised the inflammatory language around the NSW resolution, which plainly encourages rejectionism.

So much of the propaganda around this resolution is wrong....

This resolution is jejune, irresponsible, and destructive in any effect it might have. It embarrasses the party and Labor’s leadership. That the NSW right could associate itself with such an effort speaks eloquently to its appalling decline.

From The Australian editorial, 13 July 2017:

ALP must stand firm on Israel

The ALP will do itself no favours if it ignores Kim Beazley’s wise counsel against the push at the upcoming NSW party conference for a resolution demanding unconditional recognition of Palestinian statehood by a future Labor government. Mr Beazley, who has vast experience as a senior minister, party leader and ambassador to Washington, recognises the unhelpful proposal would create unnecessary problems for the ALP.

Deep divisions within the party are apparent, with Bill Shorten, Tanya Plibersek and others uncomfortable about the proposal but facing a challenge from the NSW right, including frontbenchers Tony Burke and Jason Clare, who want votes among western Sydney’s migrants. Such MPs are aligned with former foreign minister Bob Carr. But while the ALP left, including Anthony Albanese, is united behind Mr Carr’s push, the right is divided.

The ALP should listen to Mr Beazley and retain its decades-long moderate stance on Israel. It would be a grave error to fall for Mr Carr’s campaign against the Middle East’s only functioning democracy, where people of all faiths are safe under the law.

Failing to recognise the reality that there is no such thing, yet, as a Palestinian state with any of the conditions for recognition demanded by international law would put a future Labor government in an invidious position. It would be aligned with the thinking of bodies such as UNESCO, which has senselessly decreed the ancient Jewish holy site, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, a “Palestinian world heritage site”. As part of the push to gain backdoor recognition for a Palestinian state, UNESCO has previously declared Israel an “occupying power” in East Jerusalem, home of the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.

The global drive to delegitimise Israel and confect a Palestinian state will do nothing to achieve what should be the main imperative, restarting peace negotiations ... That, not bogus backdoor efforts through the UN, is the only credible path...