Peter Rodgers
The Canberra Times (Opinion)
September 8, 2011 - 12:00am

Julia Gillard's apparent opposition to the looming United Nations General Assembly resolution on a Palestinian state may all but sink Australia's hopes for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. If the resolution eventuates, and if Australia votes no, Australia's claims to be an independent player on the world stage will be a mockery. Once more, the country will have publicly bedded down with Israel and the US and a handful of the latter's irrelevant mendicants. Australia's competitors for the two slots in the UN Security Council race, Finland and Luxembourg, will only have to show Australia's dance card on Israel and Palestine to ensure that nary a vote comes our way, not just from Africa and the Middle East, but the broader Muslim world.
Does this mean we risk being blackmailed into voting for Palestinian statehood? Definitely not; it's about being smart, and consistent. Australia has long mouthed the two state solution. Now, unfortunately, it's showing all the signs of swallowing the Israeli and, more alarmingly, the Obama Administration's line that the time it not ripe for Palestinians to achieve what Jewish Israelis saw as birthright - a state of their own. That there needs to be more talk to resolve the vital issues of Jerusalem, of final borders, of Palestinian refugees and Palestinian disunity.

More talk? It's almost 20 years since the Declaration of Principles signed between the Palestinian Liberation Organisation under Yasser Arafat, and an Israeli Government led by Yitzhak Rabin, later murdered by a Jewish extremist. True, the declaration did not explicitly mention Palestinian statehood, but only the wilfully blind refused to see this as the end game. If statehood is good enough for Israelis why should it be denied to the Palestinians?

That the Israeli Government and its supporters at home and abroad oppose the resolution reflects the double standards which epitomise the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinians, it's argued, are not ready for statehood; far too many internal disputes, nasty people on the ground, and issues to be resolved. Worse, the resolution would involve ''unilateral'' action by the Palestinians.

Unilateral? Now that's a novel argument. Israel illegally planting around half a million of its Jewish citizens in the occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem is not unilateral? I haven't detected a huge amount of ''multilateral'' support for that modern colonisation. The reality is that perhaps 150 of the United Nations 190-plus members might actually support a Palestinian state. So ''unilateral''? - spare me.

And it's not as if a resolution supporting Palestinian statehood is likely to have a seismic effect. On the ground it will merely signal to Palestinians that the world sees them as real people with real claims to land - and a host of problems to fix. In the UN itself it will elevate the Palestinian delegation from a non-voting ''entity'' to a non-voting state. Big deal. Perhaps this is what upsets the Israeli Government.

After all, Zionism was founded on the myth of a land without people for a people without land. Later, prime minister Golda Meir asked contemptuously, ''Who are the Palestinians?'' Well, they happen to be Israel's neighbours. And they're not likely to disappear for a very long time to come. Yes, they're politically divided and some of them support Hamas - an unpalatable organisation which the Israeli intelligence service succoured and which won, in 2006, a democratic election, a rarity in the Middle East despite the ''Arab Spring''.

If Australia opposes the resolution or, almost as bad, abstains, it will no doubt please our American allies. They're trying hard to persuade the Palestinians and others to ''defer'' the resolution. This is the same administration that warns against Iranian ambitions, nuclear and otherwise. Yet what better way to crimp Iranian meddling than to offer Palestinians the hope of a better world? A vote for Palestinian statehood is the stuff of Iranian headaches, as that country schemes for influence in the mostly hostile Arab world.

The time will never be right for a Palestinian state. By this same logic many states are duds. But will Israel be a safer place because it has four million angry, frustrated Palestinian neighbours in perpetuity? Ironically, and for some unpalatably, Palestinian statehood is the best chance of Israel's long-term survival.

So if our Prime Minister is a true friend of Israel, she'll do the right thing and support Palestinian statehood, just the way Australia has long supported Jewish statehood. And Australia will show that it can make a mature judgment worthy of being a valued member of the UN Security Council.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017