Australia calls for two-state solution to end Gaza war

Andrew Brown |

Israel’s war against Hamas has left up to a million people facing starvation.
Israel’s war against Hamas has left up to a million people facing starvation.

Recognising Palestinian statehood could be the only way to end the cycle of violence in the Middle East and build momentum toward a two-state solution, Foreign Minister Penny Wong says.

Senator Wong advanced the prospect on Tuesday, signalling a hardening of Australia’s stance on the conflict in the region where Israel’s war against Hamas militants in Gaza has left up to a million people facing starvation.

In a speech at the Australian National University, the minister said a secure and prosperous future for both Israel and Palestinians could only come with a two-state solution.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong
Foreign Minister Penny Wong says recognising Palestine is the only hope of ending violence. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

“Recognising a Palestinian state – one that can only exist side by side with a secure Israel – doesn’t just offer the Palestinian people an opportunity to realise their aspirations,” she told a National Security College conference.

“It also strengthens the forces for peace and undermines extremism.

“It undermines Hamas, Iran and Iran’s other destructive proxies in the region.

“This is why we are urging all parties to return to the table and why we are engaging to support all efforts to advance a political process, including discussions between regional leaders.”

Her comments come after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese indicated federal Labor’s support for a two-state solution.

While Senator Wong said no decision had been made about officially recognising Palestine, it was important to look at international discussion about how to secure peace in the Middle East.

“Obviously, we have the immediate conflict, we need to see Hamas release hostages, we need to see a revitalised Palestinian Authority, we need to see an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” she told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

“Ultimately, peace and security for Israel will only be achieved if we have a Palestinian state alongside the Israeli state.”

Opposition foreign spokesman Simon Birmingham said calls to recognise Palestine “put statehood before security”.

Simon Birmingham speaks to journalists (file)
Simon Birmingham says recognising Palestine would put statehood before security. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

“The reality, however, is that a two-state solution will only be possible with security and confidence that the right of each party to exist will be respected by the other,” Senator Birmingham said.

“Hamas’s attacks of 7 October, deliberately slaughtering more Jews than on any single day since The Holocaust, shattered any sense of security.

“It is downright dangerous to reward such barbaric conduct with a fast track to recognition of statehood.”

Opposition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie said Senator Wong’s speech was more focused on domestic politics, rather than foreign policy.

“It breaks from the long-held bipartisan position, because it potentially incentivises and rewards Hamas,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“The Albanese government needs to listen to the concerns of Jewish people.”

Executive Council of Australia Jewry co-chief executive Alex Ryvchin called Senator Wong’s comments disappointing.

“They are no doubt well intentioned and the foreign ministers wants an end to the conflict as we all do but when Israel is in the fight of its life against Hamas … to lecture an ally seems callous and inappropriate,” he told ABC TV.

But Senator Wong said efforts to recognise Palestinian statehood would have benefits for Israel.

” I don’t see, ultimately, any security for Israel without the issue of Palestinian statehood being resolved,” she said.

“There is no peace in the long term unless this issue is resolved.”

Australian Palestine Advocacy Network president Nasser Mashni said Australia should join with other countries and recognise Palestine.

“Australia’s recognition of Palestine would send a signal to the world – that Australia supports the consistent application of international law,” he said.

“Recognition is a first step towards upholding the full rights of Palestinians, including the right to self-determination, dignity and equality in their homeland.”

The conflict in Gaza was triggered by Hamas’ cross-border attack in southern Israel on October 7, that left 1200 people dead and more than 250 people taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in six months of conflict, Gaza’s health ministry says.