PM backs two-state solution after statehood debate

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.

Anthony Albanese has reiterated calls for a two-state solution in the Middle East, following comments from Foreign Minister Penny Wong suggesting the government could recognise Palestinian statehood.

In a speech at the Australian National University, Senator Wong said formally recognising Palestine could be the only way of ending the cycle of violence in the region as Israel’s war against Hamas continues.

“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 on Tuesday.

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

While no formal decision has been made within the federal government on Palestinian recognition, the prime minister said there had been no change on the stance of a two-state solution.

“The issue on a two-state solution is one that Australia has had for a long period of time and indeed in statements we have made we have persistently said that we need a long-term political solution in the Middle East,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Ballina on Wednesday.

“What we want is Israelis and Palestinians to be able to live in peace and security with stability and to be able to prosper in the future in a region which is peaceful.”

Mr Albanese said Hamas should not play a role in any Palestinian state.

“They are a terrorist organisation and not a legitimate party to the future of Palestine,” he said.

“That organisation is outlawed for good reason and we have called for the immediate release of all hostages which have been held by Hamas. We have done that consistently.”

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

Senator Wong said 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”.

“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.”

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

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

“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.

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.

AAP