Australia would have opposed anti-settlement UN resolution, FM indicates
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Australia would have opposed anti-settlement UN resolution, FM indicates

Canberra ‘has consistently not supported one-sided resolutions targeting Israel,’ says Julie Bishop, who in 2014 contested notion that settlements are illegal

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 4, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 4, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Australia would likely have voted against United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlements, the country’s foreign minister indicated Thursday.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Julie Bishop stressed that Canberra is not currently a member of the Security Council and therefore could not vote on the resolution. However, she added, “in voting at the UN, the Coalition government has consistently not supported one-sided resolutions targeting Israel.”

The controversial resolution determined that Israel’s establishment of settlements anywhere outside the pre-1967 lines “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” It did not distinguish between the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Bishop, known to be a staunch supporter of Israel, urged both Israelis and Palestinians to refrain from steps that damage the prospect for peace and to “resume direct negotiations for a two-state solution as soon as possible.”

The current leader of Australia’s opposition, Chris Bowen, told the paper that his Labour party has long supported and continues to support a two-state solution and that settlements were “a roadblock to peace.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has condemned the Security Council resolution as “distorted and shameful,” is planning to visit Australia in February in what would be the first-ever visit of a sitting Israeli prime minister Down Under.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East on December 16, 2016. (UN/Manuel Elias)
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East on December 16, 2016. (UN/Manuel Elias)

Jerusalem’s relations with Australia’s smaller neighbor, New Zealand, however, are at a low point after Wellington was one of four co-sponsors who brought the controversial text up for a vote at the Security Council. Hours before the vote, Netanyahu reportedly called New Zealand’s foreign minister, Murray McCully, and warned him that going ahead with the resolution “will be a declaration of war.”

After Friday’s vote, Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister, summoned Israel’s ambassador in Wellington, Isaac Gerberg, to Jerusalem for consultations.

As a consequence of Friday’s resolution, the prime minister banned senior contacts with officials from the 14 countries that supported the text. The US abstained, allowing the resolution to pass and drawing a furious response from Netanyahu.

Netanyahu summoned a dozen ambassadors for dressing-downs, canceled foreign aid to Senegal and Angola, disinvited the Ukrainian prime minister, and declined meetings with the leaders of China and Great Britain. He also instructed his ministers to curtail travel to the countries that voted in favor of the resolution, announced a “reassessment of all of our contacts with the UN,” ordered funding cuts to various UN agencies, and vowed that “there’s more to come.”

He also canceled the upcoming visit to Israel of Senegal’s foreign minister, which would have marked the first time a top official from the Muslim-majority West African country arrived in Israel since it re-established diplomatic relations with Jerusalem in the mid-1990s.

In early 2014, Bishop caused international furor when, in an exclusive interview with The Times of Israel she appeared to contest the view that Israeli settlements anywhere beyond the 1967 lines are illegal under international law. “I would like to see which international law has declared them illegal,” she said, adding that she did not want to “prejudge the fundamental issues,” which should instead be discussed in the peace negotiations.

Her comments angered pro-Palestinian activists and politicians, who maintained that the settlements’ illegality was commonly accepted. Critics accused her of either being ignorant of international law or seeking to “reinvent” it, as senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said at the time.

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