Australia/Israel Review

Media Microscope: Beyond all recognition?

Apr 26, 2024 | Allon Lee

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s April 9 speech hinting that Australia might recognise a Palestinian state before a peace deal is reached received a mixed response.

Some commentators were unwilling to credit the speech as significant. 

In the Canberra Times, Mark Kenny (April 11) said, “Flipping a paradigm to instead drive peace via Palestinian statehood is hardly brave at all.” 

Writing in the Australian Financial Review (April 12), ABC chief political correspondent Laura Tingle said recognition “shouldn’t have actually been that controversial… A two-state solution and recognition of Palestine are, after all, official Labor Party policy.”

In the same vein, Australian Palestine Advocacy Network President Nasser Mashni told Sky News (April 10) the Government should just recognise a Palestinian state as per Labor’s platform, and placing conditions on doing so “reeks of some sort of colonialism.”

Other voices expressed doubts for different reasons.

On ABC Radio “World Today” (Oct. 10), former Australian Ambassador Bob Bowker said Hamas’ October 7 massacre had “set… back the Palestinian cause for decades” and Australia should instead focus on its own national interests.

Meanwhile, on ABC Radio “PM” (April 10), former Australian diplomat Ian Parmeter said a two-state peace was contingent on no Hamas involvement, but “we really don’t know whether [that’s] even feasible… And if it can’t be, that’s going to be a big problem.”

In the Age and Sydney Morning Herald (April 12), journalist David Leser argued Israeli settlements have made creating a Palestinian state an impossibility. 

Many commentators said recognition would be seen as a reward for Hamas’ October 7 massacre.  

Tim Blair in the Daily Telegraph (April 10) said the announcement should “forever be known” as “Penny Wong’s Hamas appeasement speech” and “may stand as Australia’s greatest diplomatic disgrace.” 

The Australian’s Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan (April 10) stressed that Israelis will want a guarantee that a Palestinian state will not become a base for “continuing attacks on Israel like October 7. Yet no Palestinian leadership could, or even would, offer such a guarantee today or in the conceivable future.”

Nine Newspapers’ international editor Peter Hartcher (April 11) scoffed that “There was no proposal. There was no plan. [Wong] spoke of a concept with all the substance of a cloud and left it floating as lonely as one.” 

In the same edition, Hartcher’s colleague David Crowe wrote Wong had made statehood conditional on “Hamas… a terrorist organisation… not be[ing] part of a Palestinian state… the Palestinian Authority needed to be reformed to make statehood possible… and she was crystal clear that the Palestinian state must not pose any security threat to Israel. Will those conditions ever be met?”

Crowe doubted Hamas could be quarantined, noting “Hamas gained control of Gaza because it had popular support – and it appears to retain that support to this day.”

The next day, Nine Newspapers’ Matthew Knott incorrectly claimed that the two-state solution has “languish[ed]… since Bill Clinton failed to broker a historic breakthrough at the Camp David summit in 2000.”  After an offer at Taba in early 2001, 2008 saw current Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reject an Israeli offer to create a Palestinian state that was better than the 2000 offer. Six years later Abbas pulled the plug on negotiations, but only after the Obama Administration had tried hard to mediate a two-state “framework for peace” which Israeli PM Netanyahu had implicitly endorsed.

In the Age (April 12), AIJAC’s Colin Rubenstein welcomed Wong’s comments that Hamas could have no role in Gaza but noted that “Many Palestinians would undoubtedly see such recognition as a major national achievement enabled by Hamas’ barbaric mass violence.” Rubenstein also said recognition would provide a “disincentive for the Palestinian Authority to undertake the reforms… it needs before it could become the nucleus of a Palestinian state.” 

In the Canberra Times (April 17), AIJAC’s Ahron Shapiro quoted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ own words disavowing recognition as a stepping stone to peacemaking.

“He wrote in the New York Times that ‘Palestine’s admission to the United Nations [as a member state] would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict.’ What really mattered to him was finding more international forums in which to campaign against Israel. He went on to fantasise how overnight ‘Palestine would be negotiating from the position of one United Nations member whose territory is militarily occupied by another.’ Notice he didn’t say ‘negotiating peace’,” Shapiro wrote. 


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