Australia Mulls Recognition Of A Palestinian State


By Phil Mercer

Australia could consider a highly conditional recognition of a Palestinian state, Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said this week, igniting a furious political debate.

The potential shift in Australian policy comes as other countries look for a two-state solution to end the war in Gaza.

Wong said that the international community was discussing an independent Palestinian state “as a way of building momentum toward a two-state solution.”

Australia expects a cease-fire in the war in Gaza, the return of Israeli hostages held by Hamas and the exclusion of Hamas from any future Palestinian government as preconditions for recognition, she said.

Wong, speaking at the Australian National University on Tuesday, said a two-state solution would promote peace.

“Recognizing a Palestinian state, one that can only exist side-by-side with a secure Israel, does not just offer the Palestinian people an opportunity to realize their aspirations, it also strengthens the forces for peace, and it undermines extremism,” she said. “So, I say to you, a two-state solution is the only hope of breaking the endless cycle of violence.”

Australia’s conservative opposition has accused Wong of inflicting “irreparable damage” to Australia’s relationship with Israel by raising the possibility of recognizing Palestinian statehood.

Simon Birmingham, the shadow foreign affairs minister, told local media the plan was misguided.

“What Penny Wong seems to be suggesting is some type of fast-tracked or preemptive recognition of Palestinian statehood, and that is completely the wrong approach to be taking at present,” he said.

The two-state solution has long been at the heart of efforts to resolve the decades-old conflict in the Middle East, but the process has stalled for years.

Britain has said it could recognize a Palestinian state before any deal over the issue is reached with Israel without waiting for the outcome of what could be years of negotiations.

Nasser Mashni of the Australia-Palestine Advocacy Network told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that Australia should also endorse the plan.

“It is time for us to just unilaterally do it and join 139 other like-minded countries and bestow and agree that Palestinians deserve self-determination,” he said.

A major obstacle to a Palestinian state is deciding on its borders and its governance. Both sides claim Jerusalem as their capital. Also, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has strongly rejected the idea of an independent Palestinian state.


The VOA is the Voice of America

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