SMH: Australia’s UN stand is wrong, says Evans 24Sep11 September 27, 2011

by Daniel Flitton – The Sydney Morning Herald  -  23 September 2011

LABOR’S longest-serving foreign minister, Gareth Evans, has warned that the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, stands ”on the wrong side of history” in opposing a Palestinian state joining the United Nations.

Mr Evans’s intervention comes as Australian officials closely monitor tense manoeuvring in New York over the Palestinian bid in case it moves suddenly to the General Assembly and forces Australia to take a stand.

US diplomats are desperate to keep the bid stalled under consideration in the Security Council, saving Washington the need to wield its threatened veto.

But Mr Evans, who is president emeritus of the International Crisis Group, claimed a change of direction on the Israel-Palestine conflict would be of huge benefit to the West in relations with the Islamic world and said accepting a Palestinian state ”once and for all” would bolster Israel’s security.

”Israel should treat the UN vote as an opportunity for a new start to negotiations, rather than an excuse for renewed confrontation,” he wrote in a syndicated article published yesterday in newspapers around the world.

He said the Palestinians knew perfectly well UN recognition would not by itself end the Israeli occupation or resolve border disputes but the General Assembly would most likely deliver a strong majority to recognise Palestine as a non-member ”observer state”, similar to the status of the Vatican.

He also said the door to negotiations with Hamas – which remains implacably hostile to Israel – should remain open.

Ms Gillard effectively ruled out Australian support for the Palestinians joining the UN after she told caucus this week the vote was not the path to peace.

The Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, who is in New York, has recommended Australia abstain in the vote and the government has refused to make its position known until the text of the resolution is public.

”Being on the wrong side of history is never a comfortable position,” Mr Evans wrote. ”And that is exactly where the US, Israel and its closest friends – including my own country, Australia – will be if they reside the tide of international sentiment in favour of moving now to recognise Palestinian statehood.”

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