FOREIGN Minister Marise Payne has broken her silence over Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank, stating that the Australian government is following the developments “with concern”.
Jewish community leaders in Australia, meanwhile, have remained tight-lipped ahead of the controversial, and long-awaited, announcement.
In a statement on Wednesday night, Payne said she had spoken directly with her Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi to voice Australia’s concerns, and urged all parties to “refrain from actions that diminish the prospects for a negotiated two-state solution”.
“The Australian government is a longstanding supporter of a two-state solution, in which Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist, in peace and security, within internationally recognised borders,” she said.
Stating, “We are following with concern possible moves towards the unilateral annexation or change in status of territory on the West Bank,” Payne said the focus needs to be on “a return to direct and genuine negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for a durable and resilient peace arrangement, as soon as possible”.
As The AJN went to press on Wednesday afternoon (Australian time), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had yet to release formal details about the proposal – which designates some 30 per cent of the West Bank for Israel – and it was unclear whether he would meet his July 1 target date.
Despite question marks looming over the plan, former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd and the Australian Labor Party this week joined a growing chorus of international condemnation.
Stating annexation would undermine the shared goal of a two-state solution and violate international law, Rudd called on the Israeli government to “urgently reconsider” the action, and said the Morrison government had an obligation to “speak up” against it.
Meanwhile, deputy Labor leader Richard Marles and shadow minister for foreign affairs Penny Wong said, “Annexation of any part of the West Bank will weaken the viability of any future Palestinian state, undermine the prospect of a two-state solution, violate international law and risk destabilising Israel’s neighbours, which the world cannot afford.”
The pair called on “both sides of the conflict to refrain from any actions that hamper peaceful outcomes for both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples”.
Contacted by The AJN, leaders of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Zionist Federation of Australia and Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council all said it would be premature to comment before any plan is announced by the Israeli government.