VERY little has changed from the ALP’s position following its 2018 National Conference. It remains committed to a two-state outcome “recognised and agreed by the parties”. The call for the next Labor government to recognise Palestine as a state was also part of the resolution.
The only difference is that all resolutions that are being preserved have now been given the higher status of being part of the ALP platform itself. This is a symbolic rather than a substantive change.
Although symbolism matters, it will not bind a future ALP government to recognise a state of Palestine.
Nevertheless, it is disappointing that the wording fails to come to grips with the sea change that has occurred in the politics of the Middle East over the last two years.
One would have expected the national conference of the party of Australia’s alternative government to have welcomed the normalisation of relations between Israel and Bahrain, the UAE, Sudan and Morocco.
One would have hoped that it would say something positive about Israel’s trailblazing efforts in vaccinating its citizens – Jews and Arabs, Muslims and Christians – against the COVID-19 virus.
Instead, the proposed new platform is bogged down in a sterile argument about recognising a Palestinian state. The Palestinians have no entity that meets the criteria of a functioning state, and the draft platform is at odds with the ALP’s own frequent statements that nothing should be done to pre-empt the outcome of key issues which can only be resolved through direct negotiations.
Recognising a Palestinian state other than as part of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would only act as a disincentive, rather than an encouragement, for them to resume negotiations. It is entirely counterproductive.
It is also strange this was never included in any draft of the new ALP platform disseminated when the ALP conducted consultations with its members and the wider community. So there was no opportunity for anyone to discuss it.
As it happened, ECAJ had several consultations with the ALP which focused on religious freedom and the Religious Discrimination Bill and other domestic issues. We could have provided feedback on the proposed recognition of a Palestinian state if that proposal had been included.
But it was not, and we therefore did not have that opportunity.
Peter Wertheim is co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ).