Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement that Australia would consider recognising west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state has left Greens senators seething.
Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale led the charge in the Senate against the Government’s principled announcement. Amid a mix of hyperbole and factual inaccuracies, Senator Di Natale labelled the decision a “disgrace”, “unfair” and “dangerous”.
During Senator Question Time, Senator Di Natale asked Foreign Minister Marise Payne to “condemn Israel for the 10,000 settlements it has pushed forward with”. In a later speech to the Senate, he changed his mind and instead said that “in August, Israel approved plans for more than 1000 settlements, 96 per cent of which are isolated settlements that Israel would likely need to evacuate within a two-state agreement.”
Senator Di Natale’s numbers are confusing and a fabrication.
According to the most recent data made available by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, since January 2018, construction has started on 1073 dwellings in the West Bank’s Jewish neighbourhoods. Most of these neighbourhoods are likely to be included in Israel proper following land swaps as part of future peace negotiations.
If you are to consider settlements themselves, according to Israeli activist group Peace Now there are a total of 130 Jewish settlements in the West Bank and 101 outposts, which are considered illegal under Israeli law. It is a long way from Senator Di Natale’s purported 10,000 settlements.
Senator Di Natale also told the Senate that “if we really wanted to salvage the possibility of a two-state solution, we would recognise Palestine.”
In 2012, 138 of the 193 United Nations member states voted to provide de facto recognition of a Palestinian state (Australia abstained). This week, the UN voted that the Palestinians should lead the important G77 plus China bloc of countries (Australia opposed this resolution on the grounds it was “deeply unhelpful” to peace negotiations).
Nevertheless, in the six years since a vast majority of UN member states recognised a Palestinian state – in a direct repudiation of Senator Di Natale’s wail – peace negotiations have not progressed. In fact, the Palestinian Authority has refused to even engage in discussions with the US Administration, which is currently trying to bring the parties back to the table and progress the situation.
Senator Di Natale’s newest colleague, Senator Mehreen Faruqi, also addressed the issue in the Senate declaring that the US decision to move its embassy to west Jerusalem is “part of a broader pattern of destroying the Palestinian people.” This is unlikely given the Arab population in Israel and the Palestinian Territories continues to grow, and some reports indicate it has reached as high as 6.5 million in 2018. Indeed, the Arab population in Jerusalem has grown by 25 per cent since 1967 and Palestinians today constitute nearly 40 per cent of Jerusalem’s population. This is hardly a community at risk of destruction.
The final word must go to recently retired Greens senator Lee Rhiannon. On her Facebook page, she complained the Australian Government’s announcement was “a further attack on the rights of Palestinians to live in their own country.”
Among her litany of (mostly inaccurate) complaints was the fact that the IDF had killed 166 Palestinians in Gaza. Unlike Rhiannon, Gaza’s Hamas leaders have admitted most of those casualties are terrorist combatants belonging to either Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad; a point not lost on those leaving comments on Rhiannon’s Facebook page. She concluded her remarks by calling for donations to a spectacularly unsuccessful campaign she is running to stop Australia competing at Eurovision in Israel in 2019.