Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

The aftermath of the PA UN bid and the debate over Israeli building in settlements

YOU ARE IN: Home Page > Topics > Australasia

Update from AIJAC

Dec. 7, 2012
Number 12/12 #02


This Update deals with the aftermath of the UN vote to upgrade Palestine to "non-member state" status last week, the Israeli response in terms of announcements of preparations to build new housing units in east Jerusalem and settlements, and the strong reaction this decision has promoted from many foreign governments, including Australia's.

First up is veteran Australian Jewish leader Isi Leibler, now based in Israel, discussing the latest Australia/Israel disagreements. He focuses on the key role played by Australian foreign minister Bob Carr in the shift both in UN voting and in recently making the Israeli announcement about building in east Jerusalem and settlements the focus of another round of public disagreements with Israel. While Mr. Leibler expresses concern about the way the Australian Labor Party is headed on Israel-related issues, and offers some explanations for the shift, he also says the Labor party should not be written off. For all the has to say about the state of Australia-Israel Relations, CLICK HERE.

Next up, Barry Rubin offers a satirical, but accurate description, of how much of the international media relates to the issue of building in settlements by Israel. He posits a reporter asking "why is Israel making a two-state solution impossible by building 3000 apartments in east Jerusalem?", and then offers an elaborate, knowledgeable and thoughtful explanation of why the premise of the question is wrong and Israel is doing nothing of the kind. His answer canvasses in detail the events of the last 15 years - including the Second Intifada, the Gaza withdrawal, the peace offers  the settlement freeze, and especially the many signs that the Palestinian side appears to have little interest in a two-state peace, before concluding that" if the Palestinian side were to give Israel the slightest incentive today to believe it was interested in a real compromise, negotiated peace" no construction plans would be being put forward by Israel. To read how Rubin imagines the reporter would respond - and all the rest of the details - CLICK HERE.

Finally, top Palestinian affairs reporter Khaled Abu Toameh has a look at how both Hamas and Fatah have reacted to the events of recent weeks. He sees both groups as believing that they have succeeded in defeating Israel - militarily in Gaza, by virtue of firing rockets at central Israel, and diplomatically at the UN. He argues that the net result is that both parties are preparing their population for new confrontations with Israel and that, while both groups have been celebrating their "victories" together, there is "no mention of the peace process or coexistence with Israel" or any renewal of negotiations even by Fatah. For this knowledgeable but worrying description of the current reality among the Palestinian leadership and population, CLICK HERE.

Readers may also be interested in:

 


 

Australia tilts against Israel

by Isi Leibler

Word from Jerusalem, December 6, 2012

In the diplomatic debacle at the United Nations General Assembly pertaining to the vote of recognition to the Palestinian Authority, two countries considered solid supporters of Israel, abandoned us at the crucial moment.

Israel was shocked when Germany abstained, especially as Chancellor Angela Merkel had stated earlier that Germany would vote against the Palestinian initiative.

The other unexpected defection was the last moment abstention of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Labor government, considered a strong supporter of Israel.

On a few recent occasions, votes by Australia at the UN appeared to deviate from the norm, but this was rationalized as temporary pandering to the Arabs to solicit votes for elections to the Security Council.

The dramatic tilt against Israel was spearheaded by Foreign Minister Bob Carr who exerted enormous pressure on the Labor caucus and compelled Prime Minister Gillard to backtrack from her decision to oppose the Palestinian initiative. Had she not complied, she would have been humiliatingly defeated and possibly toppled as Prime Minister.

Carr was vigorously supported by former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke, at one time one of Israel’s greatest supporters, notorious (whilst inebriated) for having called on Israel to “nuke” the Palestinians if they failed to halt the terror. Hawke was intimately connected to Israel’s Labor leaders but after Menahem Begin was elected Prime Minister in 1977, he changed his views and today regards Israel as “intransigent”. He was supported by another veteran Labor politician, former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, who since retiring from government has been consistently canvassing the Arab cause. Both fervently lobbied Labor ministers to repudiate Gillard’s policy.

Carr was only appointed to his post in March this year. Prior to that he had served for 11 years as Premier of Australia’s largest state, New South Wales.

Ironically, he was once considered a close friend of the Jewish community. He is knowledgeable about Jewish affairs and has a genuine and sensitive understanding of the Holocaust. In 1977, he was a founding member of the Labor Friends of Israel.

He subsequently became a passionate admirer of Amos Oz and appears to have absorbed much of his far left outlook on Israeli affairs.

In 2003, as State Premier, he dismayed the Jewish community and friends of Israel by presenting the Sydney Peace Prize to Palestinian political activist, Hanan Ashrawi, renowned for her rabid demonization of Israel.

Carr visited Israel in August this year meeting Israeli and Palestinian leaders including Ashrawi.

On his return to Australia, he raised eyebrows when he dispatched a delegation to Iran to solicit votes for Australia’s UN Security Council candidature. There were also unconfirmed rumors circulating that undertakings were made to the Arabs in return for their support.

His backing of Israel during the Gaza campaign was lukewarm. In the Senate, he made the astonishing statement: “Any response by Israel needs to be proportionate and not lead to civilian casualties. We have on more than a dozen occasions called on both sides to exercise restraint”.

Setting aside the moral equivalence inherent in this remark, he was effectively demanding that Israel - which more than any army in history goes out of its way to minimize civilian casualties - take no action to defend its citizens from missile attacks.

He was even more forthcoming after the UN vote when he proclaimed “I don’t apologize for the fact that Australia has interests in the Arab world. If we had voted no, that would have been a body blow to our interests in over 20 countries. The truth is they all see this as a bedrock issue.” He also dismissed suggestions that the Palestinians intended to exploit their new observer status to initiate charges of war crimes against Israel at the International Criminal Court.

Carr’s change of policy was confirmed when he joined the European bandwagon and hauled Israel’s Ambassador to Australia, Yuval Rotem over the coals following Israel’s decision to build homes in the Jerusalem suburbs and adjacent areas - which the Bush Administration had agreed should remain within Israel.

Australia has a long association of friendship with Israel dating back to Australian troops who served in Palestine during both World Wars. Labor leader Dr. H.V. Evatt was UN President in 1948 when the Jewish state was proclaimed and since then until today - with the exception of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam from 1972-1975, - successive Australian governments of all political persuasions, displayed strong friendship towards Israel.

The Liberal (conservative) government under Prime Minister John Howard, which governed Australia for 11 years prior to Labor’s electoral victory in 2007, was especially supportive of Israel and could be compared to the Harper Government in Canada today.

When Howard visited Israel in 2000, I had already made aliya and reluctantly accepted his invitation to accompany his delegation to meet with Arafat. Afterwards he solicited my opinion and I told him that I regarded Arafat as a duplicitous terrorist and did not believe he had any intention of seeking a peace settlement. I recall his response: “Should Arafat ever renege on the commitments to peace which he conveyed today, I give you a clear undertaking that as long as I am Prime Minister, the Jewish community and the people of Israel will never have reason to feel that I let them down”. Howard kept his word and in subsequent years emerged as Israel’s greatest champion amongst world statesmen.

Labor, headed by Kevin Rudd, gained office in 2007 and three years later was succeeded by Julia Gillard. Under both Prime Ministers, but especially Gillard, Labor maintained an evenhanded bipartisan approach towards Israel.

Much of this historical bipartisanship can be attributed to a vigorous Jewish community, renowned as being one of the most vibrant Zionist communities in the Diaspora. Its leadership has never failed, to speak upand take a principled stand on behalf of Israel when appropriate.

With close to 500,000 Moslems now living in Australia, many concentrated in key Labor Party electorates, their influence has impacted on a number of Labor Ministers. Combined with the vehement anti-Israeli orientation of the far left Labor factions, this enabled Carr to persuade the Cabinet to tilt its policy against Israel.

However it is premature to totally write off the Australian Labor Party. It has a long tradition of friendship towards Israel and many of its leaders were distressed with recent developments. Besides, although understandably disheartened, Prime Minister Julia Gillard remains solidly pro-Israel, reiterating her view that this abstention was a mistake and will only serve to embolden Palestinian extremists.

The opposition Liberal Party adamantly supports Israel. Former Prime Minister John Howard described the government’s tilt as “pathetic” and an “embarrassment”.

Elections are scheduled next year and recent polls indicate that the Liberals may win by a landslide.

But unless Gillard succeeds in persuading the Labor Party caucus to change its approach, in the short term Israel should not expect support from Australia under Foreign Minister Carr. Like many of our European “friends”, Carr may continue insisting that his motivations are based upon having the Jewish state’s security at heart and trying to save Israel from itself. But when the chips are down, he will abandon us as he did at the UN General Assembly.

This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom

Back to Top
------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Interview: Explaining the Latest Israel-Palestinian Controversy (Satire but Very Close to Actual Experience)

By Barry Rubin

Pajamas Media, 06 Dec 2012 02:16 AM PST

Journalist: Professor Rubin, why is Israel making a two-state solution impossible by building 3000 apartments in east Jerusalem?

Me: In 1993 Israel signed an agreement with the PLO in which there was no ban whatsoever on Israel building more buildings on existing settlements. The Palestinians formed a government that received political control over all the towns and villages of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It agreed that Israel would continue to control Jerusalem. The two sides further agreed that the political status of these territories would be changed only through a mutual peace treaty.

In 2000, the Palestinian Authority (PA) rejected the offer of a Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem living in peace alongside Israel.

Instead it launched a war against Israel whose main feature was terrorist attacks on Israel civilians.

A few months later, it rejected an even better offer of peace with a Palestinian state having its capital in east Jerusalem on the exact amount of territory that constituted the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem before 1967.

Ever since then, for 12 years now, Palestinian leaders have repeatedly said they no longer accepted a two-state solution or at least would soon stop doing so.

Israel withdrew from the entire Gaza Strip and dismantled all the settlements there in order to encourage the Palestinians to move toward a two-state solution by developing that area and showing they were willing to live in peace. Instead, Hamas took over, openly declared its rejection of all previous agreements, that it would never accepted the two-state solution, fired rockets and missiles at Israel, put on television programs teaching children that they should grow up to be suicide bombers, and that all Jews in the world be murdered.

Despite these positions of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority has tried endlessly to make a deal bringing Hamas into the government, a government that would have to be based on a platform rejecting any real, lasting two-state solution.

This policy was continued after the 2008-2009 and 2012 Hamas escalations to war with Israel.

For more than a half-dozen years the PA has refused to negotiate seriously with Israel.

PA schools teach that Israel should be wiped off the map; sermons in PA-controlled mosques say that Israel should be wiped off the map; PA officials demand that eventually Israel be wiped off the map.

Those who murdered Israeli civilians are glorified by the PA, which names, schools, squares, and soccer tournaments after them.

When Israel, at the U.S. request, froze all construction for ten months the PA refused to negotiate seriously.

For the last three years, the PA has concentrated all of its efforts on abandoning a negotiated two-state solution and getting their own state without making any such commitment. Now, the UN—including many European countries—has helped them achieve a non-member state status. Thus, due to Palestinian action the 1993 Israel-PLO agreement has been killed, every deal made since then abrogated, every concession and risk taken by Israel during this period has been deprived of anything in return.

Remember also that if the PA were to negotiate a peace deal with Israel all the settlements on Palestine’s territory would be dismantled. So if construction upsets them so much why don’t they stop it permanently by making a peace deal? You know who made that exact same point? King Hussein of Jordan. And that was in 1986. They ignored him.

Now in the wake of the UN General Assembly decision, PA leaders have been proclaiming that Israel is a racist state that shouldn't exist, that the UN has now endorsed the Palestinian claim to all of the 1967 borders (which is not true), and that they will go to the international court to prosecute Israel for allegedly being the occupier of territory belonging to another country which has (not true) been declared sovereign over that land.

Reportedly, some of the countries that voted Palestine would be a non-member state at the UN asked the PA for assurances that they would not use this new status to launch lawsuits against Israel at the World Court. Within hours, however, the PA announced that this is precisely what it will do. The main goal is to get the court to rule that Israel is occupying the territory of a sovereign state and thus must withdraw immediately, with no peace treaty and no end to the conflict. Thus, as called for in the PLO Covenant almost a half-century ago, a state of Palestine would serve as a base for a "second stage" in which Israel would be completely eliminated.  

And yet despite every point listed above if the Palestinian side were to give Israel the slightest incentive today to believe it was interested in a real compromise negotiated peace those buildings would not be begun, much less built in a few years.

Now, after all this has happened you want to blame Israel for the destruction of the negotiating process and the abandonment of a two-state solution? Don’t you realize how absurd this claim is?

Journalist: Thank you very much, Professor Rubin, for this very clear and detailed answer. I have only one more question:  Why is Israel making a two-state solution impossible by building 3000 apartments in east Jerusalem?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center  and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.

Back to Top
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Palestinians: What The UN Brought


by Khaled Abu Toameh

Gatestone Institute, December 5, 2012 at 5:00 am


    There has been no mention of peace process or coexistence with Israel. The belligerent and defiant tone of Fatah officials sent the message that the Palestinians are now headed toward confrontation with Israel -- not peace.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders say they are already preparing for the next war with Israel. They say that their groups still have many rockets that will be used against Israel in the future.

As one Hamas official put it, "In the next war with Israel, Israelis will be forced to flee not only their homes, but the whole country."

Fatah is also preparing for a possible confrontation with Israel, both on the ground and in the international arena. Some Fatah leaders are now talking about a new intifada against Israel, especially in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Every step that Israel takes, such as building new housing units in the Jerusalem suburbs, is being viewed by the Fatah leadership as a "war crime" and "act of aggression" on the UN-recognized State of Palestine.

Mahmoud Abbas's top aides in Ramallah are now talking about filing charges against Israel with the International Criminal Court over plans to withhold tax revenues belonging to the Palestinian government and the construction of the new housing units.

The Palestinians feel that for the first time in decades they have succeeded in rallying most of the world against Israel.

The celebrations that took place in the Gaza Strip and West Bank over the past two weeks are the result of the Palestinians' belief that they have defeated Israel twice - first during Operation Pillar of Defense, and second at the UN General Assembly, where a majority of countries voted in favor of upgrading their status to Non-Member Observer State.

The Palestinians are convinced that they have managed to defeat the Israelis, both militarily and diplomatically.

Hamas's continuing control over the Gaza Strip, despite the recent Israeli military offensive, is seen as a victory for the Islamist movement as well as for many Palestinians.

Palestinians who took to the streets to celebrate the victory chanted slogans in support of Hamas's rockets and missiles, especially those fired toward Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Referring to Hamas's armed wing, Izaddin al-Kassam, jubilant Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip chanted, "Oh, Kassam, bomb, bomb Tel Aviv!" and "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!"

They were not celebrating the end of the eight-day military offensive, which led to the death of more than 160 Palestinians.

They were celebrating the fact that Hamas and Islamic Jihad had succeeded in launching rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv; that thousands of Israeli families had to sit in bomb shelters or flee their homes because of the rockets, and that for the first time millions of Israelis were living within the range of Iranian-supplied and locally made rockets and missiles.

Even Fatah officials and supporters took to the streets to join the Hamas and Islamic Jihad celebrations. Some Fatah leaders traveled to Gaza to congratulate Hamas and Islamic Jihad -- who a few years ago had thrown Fatah members to their deaths off the the tops of buildings and forced them out of Gaza — and to hail their "resistance and steadfastness."

A week later, in the aftermath of the UN General Assembly vote, it was Fatah's turn to claim victory over Israel.

The Fatah celebrations also turned into anti-Israel demonstrations and rallies.

Many Palestinians, after the UN vote, celebrated in Ramallah and other West Bank cities, where they chanted slogans in support of Hamas and the armed struggle. At the rallies Palestinians, in a unique show of unity, raised the flags of both Hamas and Fatah.

The Fatah celebrations -- which also took place in the Gaza Strip for the first time since 2007 -- were not about the upgrading of the Palestinians' status so much as the feeling that Israel has been humiliated and isolated in the international community.

There has been no mention of the peace process or coexistence with Israel. The belligerent and defiant tone of Fatah officials sent the message that the Palestinians are now headed toward confrontation with Israel -- not peace.

Back to Top

Most recent items in: Australasia