Jewish leaders rap Australian lawmakers’ bid to recognize Palestine


SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – Jewish leaders in Australia slammed an attempt by Parliament lawmakers to recognize a Palestinian state.

Labor lawmaker Maria Vamvakinou, a co-convener of the Parliamentary Friends of Palestine group, tabled the private members’ bill in Canberra on Monday and called on the Liberal government of Tony Abbott, one of Israel’s staunchest allies, to recognize a Palestinian state.

“Australia, and indeed this Parliament, must now recognize the state of Palestine,” Vamvakinou said. “Australia must vote yes at the U.N. for Palestinian statehood. Fifty-six percent of Australians are in favor of this and 135 countries have already done so.”

The debate, timed to coincide with the United Nations’ International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian People, was adjourned; no resolution was passed.

It came as France this week passed a largely symbolic motion to recognize a Palestinian state, joining a growing number of European countries in such recognition, including Sweden. Spain, Britain and Ireland have backed nonbinding resolutions in favor of recognizing Palestine.

The European Parliament will vote in the coming weeks on the recognition of a Palestinian state; its vote was postponed last week.

Robert Goot, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said the motion was “an exercise in empty symbolism.”

Dr. Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, described the motion as “an annual ritual for the usual suspects, part of a small minority of MPs to use the U.N.’s International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian people to make one-sided speeches demonizing Israel.”

Michael Danby, a staunch pro-Israel lawmaker and one of two Jewish lawmakers in the Labor Party, said the proponents of the motion were “individuals who do not speak for either party.”

“No one has paid attention to this private members’ motion, which was ostensibly about the international year of solidarity with the Palestinians and not about the Palestinian state,” he said.

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