18 August 2023

I’ve stood on the West Bank, and looked at the beautifully manicured lawns of an Israeli settlement. At an ornamental lake with water flowing and garden beds with flowers blooming.

Only a short distance away, I have listened to Palestinian farmers as they show me their struggling date and citrus trees due to erratic water supply, turned on and off at unpredictable times, meaning their family’s future is uncertain. I’ve spoken with Palestinians who are blocked from using roads to reach their agricultural lands; denied building permits for houses or schools; or who have had homes and even whole communities demolished.

These are examples of the inequity and the inequality that people face in their day to day lives in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and I’ve spent time with both Israelis and Palestinians who want to see human rights, democracy, and equality for all.

That’s why I speak in favour of the words in our Labor platform which are about supporting the recognition and right of Israel and Palestine to exist as two states within their own secure and recognised borders. And for the call our platform makes for the recognition of Palestine as an issue of priority by our government.

We all know, everyone one of us knows that by choosing to have a role in contributing to peace in this region we make a choice that involves serious, thoughtful, respectful but difficult conversations. Since we have come to government, those conversations have started.

We have reversed the Morrison Government’s recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and reaffirmed Australia’s longstanding position that Jerusalem is a final status issue.

We have rebalanced our votes in the UN. We have doubled – to $20 million – Australia’s funding to UNRWA: the only organisation with a mandate to provide basic services for Palestinian refugees, funding which had been slashed by the Morrison Government.

And, more recently, we have expressed our grave concern about illegal settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territories. The extreme right-wing policies of the Netanyahu Government that speed up expansion of settlements are a serious impediment to the two state solution that we are all committed to.

As tensions continue to escalate, and more lives on both sides are lost, I can’t imagine that there’s a delegate at this conference who would disagree that the situation on the ground is deeply concerning. I can’t imagine that there’s a delegate at this conference who would think that the way forward is simple.

 But I know there’s not a delegate at this conference who would want anything other than us working, together, towards a just and enduring peace.