I was Israels most senior diplomat. I urge Australia to recognise the …

Posted By on August 14, 2023

As a former Israeli ambassador and director general of the ministry of foreign affairs, Ive dedicated my professional life to representing and promoting Israels interests all around the world.

For many years, Israel has been veering away from a path of mutual recognition and peace with the Palestinians. Successive governments have doubled down on settlements and deepened military control over Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

But currently we are witnessing something new. The Benjamin Netanyahu-led ultranationalist government is racing towards annexation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), a manoeuvre which will not only end any chance of a two-state outcome, but also permanently entrench the daily humanitarian and anti-democratic nightmare that the Israeli occupation has become. During the last six months these methods have spilled into Israel itself, to a point of endangering our own precious democracy the basis of our proximity to the western world.

To this end, Australian foreign affairs minister Penny Wongs announcement on Tuesday that the federal government recognises the illegality of settlements under international law is a step in the right direction. While the Labor government is right to break away from previous governments, which failed to implement Australias commitment to international law and the two-state solution, Labor has a chance to take a real and decisive step in upholding its values by voting to recognise the state of Palestine at its national conference this month.

Now, more than ever, Israel needs the support of its friends, including Australia, to push back against the efforts of the Israeli government and help us continue striving towards two democratic states living peacefully side by side.

Successive Israeli governments have implemented policies on the ground to change the geography and demography of the OPT. They have largely sought to achieve this through the rapid expansion of settlements, which are illegal under international law. Almost 600,000 Israelis live in illegal settlements across the green line.

The settlements are located between and around Palestinian communities, creating enclaves of the Palestinian population. By isolating these communities into dense and fractured pockets, Israel is working towards the complete geographical fragmentation of the West Bank. Doing so will obstruct Palestinian territorial contiguity and achieve the Israeli ultranationalists dream of preventing the creation of a Palestinian state.

Its not just the speed, however, at which this new extremist Israeli government is progressing. It is promoting a clear intent to annex the Palestinian territories, a move which has so far been avoided by every Israeli government.

The Israeli right has always dreamed of a sole Israeli sovereign between the Mediterranean sea and the Jordan river. But with the rise in power of ultranationalistic parties in the Israeli body politic, its no surprise their dreams of annexation are explicitly spelled out in the governments coalition agreement. For example, it ensures the government will promote the exclusive and unquestionable right [of the Jewish people] to all areas of the land of Israel and commit the government to promote and develop settlements in all [its] parts.

Thousands of settler housing units have been approved, millions in the budget have been allocated to develop settlement roads and infrastructure, unauthorized settler outposts have gained recognition, and formerly evacuated settlements are being resettled. The flip side of this scale of growth of Israels settlement enterprise in this way is the impossibility of a Palestinian state.

The two cannot coexist, and the dream I worked for my entire career of a secure and democratic Israel at peace with its neighbours is not only being eroded, but completely obliterated. The recent escalation in Jenin and the countless other recent flare-ups prove that the cycle of violence can only be broken, and a real solution to the conflict found, by using the tools of diplomacy, rather than the tools of war.

This is where Australias recognition of the state of Palestine is relevant.

The international community must push back by giving Palestine increasing international legitimacy. Doing so sends a message that they will not stand idly by while Israels far right realises its agenda. More states must recognise Palestinian statehood to push back against this impending reality.

Australia has a deep, historical connection to the two-state solution. In 1947, Australias then foreign affairs minister was instrumental in pushing through the UN Partition Plan which first called for a two-state resolution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Australia was the first country to vote in favour of the plan despite outside pressures against it.

More than 75 years later, only half of that plan has been realised. The state of Israel exists and has been internationally recognised; recognising the state of Palestine keeps that decades-old promise.

I have worked with Australians for a long time and have always been impressed by their pursuit of fairness and justice in international diplomatic circles. Recognising the state of Palestine would be a natural extension of that ethos. Just as Palestine has not been given veto power over the existence of Israeli statehood, Israel must not be given veto power over Palestinian statehood.

Critics may argue that Australias distance from the region makes any intervention pointless, but that ignores decades of Australian activism in the region. The sustained economic and diplomatic ties between the two countries, not to mention the important role Australia has long played as an ally in diplomatic circles, provides a useful platform to draw a line in the sand on annexation.

While Australian recognition of the state of Palestine is long overdue, from an Israeli perspective, it could not be more timely.

Given the urgency of the Israeli government and its unfolding extremist agenda Israel needs Australia and its allies to help protect the democratic vision of its founding fathers, as enshrined in Israels 1948 declaration of independence.

Only by giving increased international legitimacy to a Palestinian state can we continue striving towards democracy and peace for all people in our region.

Alon Liel served as the director general of Israels ministry of foreign affairs and as the Israeli ambassador to South Africa


I was Israels most senior diplomat. I urge Australia to recognise the ...

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