Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

AIJAC statement responding to Foreign Minister Carr's legal claims on settlements

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On Friday, August 9 , AIJAC put out a statement responding to controversial remarks on Israeli settlements by Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr at Lakemba the previous day. Video on the SBS website shows Carr saying the following:

We in our government, and the members of the government behind me, made a decision that in the United Nations, Australia would not block the bid to lift the status of the Palestinians. And I am very, very proud that Australia's hand did not go up against increased Palestinian status in the General Assembly of the United Nations...

And that's why we say unequivocally all settlements on Palestinian land are illegal under international law and should cease. That is the position of Kevin Rudd, the position of the federal Labor government and we don't make apologies for it...

A spokesperson for Senator Carr has now responded to criticisms of his remarks in a statement published on the J-Wire news website re-iterating his insistence that all Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal by virtue of the Fourth Geneva Convention. AIJAC has released the following statement in response to Senator Carr's latest comments:

We disagree with Foreign Minister Bob Carr's claim regarding the legality of settlements but that is not the principal problem with the policy shift he has led. We are disappointed that Senator Carr has altered a long-standing bipartisan policy in Australia by repeatedly asserting a contentious and disputed legal claim in a way which is both one-sided and which also potentially undermines progress towards a negotiated two-state resolution to the conflict.

A strong case can be made that the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply in the West Bank and, even if it does, that it would not forbid Israeli settlements there. However, that aside, progress toward peace requires encouraging the Israelis and Palestinians to compromise and work together. Unequivocal proclamations on contentious legal claims prejudice the outcome of negotiations by narrowing the scope for compromise on important final-status issues, discourage flexibility in the negotiating process and detract from efforts to bridge the major differences between the two sides. We call on Senator Carr to return to the traditional bipartisan policy of placing principled and realistic support for negotiations toward a two-state resolution at the centre of Australia's approach to Israeli-Palestinian issues.

Colin Rubenstein