Palestine continues on towards a UN seat and Julia Gillard faced dissent from Labor on the vote – she stated her intent to support Israel and party members, led by Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr, convinced her to cast her vote as an abstention.
Julia Gillard relied on her authority as Prime Minister when she decided on Monday that Australia would vote in support of Israel in a forthcoming ballot in the United Nations, but her authority proved inadequate. Gillard overruled the strong advice of her Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, and the overwhelming opinion of her cabinet to insist on her position.
The uprising was led by Bob Carr. ”He was on the ring-a-round,” canvassing support for his position, said a factional convener. ”I’ve never seen a Cabinet minister stand up to a prime minister like that.” But after being advised that she was about to face a full Caucus revolt on the matter on Tuesday, Gillard capitulated.
- Peter Hartcher, Humiliating defeat forces Gillard to back down over Palestine vote, The Age.
While I would prefer Australia voting in favour of a Palestine UN seat, that will never happen. An abstention is better than the alternative. Diplomacy needs to seem like an viable alternative to violence for Palestine and a seat on the UN will help that. As Palestine leaders have said: a vote against Palestine will be a vote for Hamas and ‘standing up to Israel’.
“[US secretary of state Hillary] Clinton just a few days before Gaza said it would be a very long time before the Palestinian issue is going to get attention. Which means what: we only get attention when we use force? If we get this vote, people will feel nonviolence produces results; if we do not, they will reach the opposite conclusion.”
- Nabil Shaath, quoted in Palestine warn: back UN statehood or risk boosting Hamas, The Guardian.
Palestinian statehood would open access to the international criminal court (ICC) and the international court of justice. The latter could be used to seek territorial rulings. The former would allow Palestine to accuse Israel of war crimes and documents have been drafted to do so, causing concern among Israeli officials. (The US, France and Britain are pressuring Palestine to reconsider its approaching the ICC.)
Gillard may not support Palestine but at least she’s no longer attacking it. That’s a variety of progress. And it’s commendable (particularly as the US will be voting against Palestine).
Hartcher’s article ends with the following:
In the debate, it was pointed out that one of Labor’s staunchest friends of Israel, the former prime minister Bob Hawke, had been on the phone urging ministers to cast Australia’s vote as an abstention.
Israel’s policy of allowing continuing expansion of Israeli settlements on was sabotaging peace, Hawke argued, and Israel’s friends had to send it a message.
After Bob Carr got his way, he was the first to go public in defence of his leader. It was not a humiliation but a textbook case of a leader heeding the party, said Carr. Which is one way of putting it.
Hartcher seems to disagree with me and I’m not sure why. While I question Gillard’s decision to support Israel without consulting her party, I respect her listening to Carr et al. when they voiced their unease. It’s something resembling democracy.
The article is laced with terms implying or highlighting dissent in the Labor Party and Gillard’s inability to control the party. I’d argue that the conflict between Palestine and Israel is slightly bigger than the ‘power politics’ of Labor. Gillard may have been foolish to declare her vote against Palestine on Monday but ignoring her party would have been far more foolish. The discussion would have been better had behind closed doors – I’m just glad it happened.
This is neither humiliating nor a ‘backdown’. It’s a compromise. It’s democracy. And, more importantly, it’s a step forward for diplomacy between Palestine and Israel.