Foreign Minister Penny Wong indicates Australia may recognise Palestinian statehood

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Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong has indicated the federal government is considering recognising Palestinian statehood, which would help “build momentum towards a two-state solution” with Israel.

The government’s criticism of Israel has increased recently as violence escalated in Gaza, with former ADF chief Mark Binskin appointed to scrutinise Israel’s investigation of the air strikes that killed Australian aid worker Zomi Frankcom and six of her colleagues.

The United Kingdom has suggested it could also recognise Palestinian statehood but Foreign Secretary David Cameron indicated that will not happen while Hamas remains in Gaza.

Senator Wong told an ANU conference on Tuesday night that “the Netanyahu government’s refusal to even engage on the question of a Palestinian state have caused widespread frustration”.

“The international community is now considering the question of Palestinian statehood as a way of building momentum towards a two-state solution,” she said.

Senator Wong also referred to Mr Cameron’s statement that recognition could help make a two-state solution “irreversible”.

“There are always those who claim recognition is rewarding an enemy. This is wrong,” she said.

“First, because Israel’s own security depends on a two-state solution. There is no long-term security for Israel unless it is recognised by the countries of its region.”

Senator Wong added that the normalisation agenda being pursued before October 7 could not proceed without progress on Palestinian statehood.

“Saudi Arabia has made clear there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognised,” she said.

Senator Wong further argued that recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution would help marginalise Hamas, which she described as a “terrorist organisation … which has the explicit intent of the destruction of the state of Israel and the Jewish people … (and) also rains terror on the Palestinian people.”

“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 said.

“It also strengthens the forces for peace and undermines extremism. It undermines Hamas, Iran and Iran’s other destructive proxies in the region.

“A two-state solution is the only hope to break the endless cycle of violence.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles confirmed he and Senator Wong were yet to receive a response to a letter they wrote to Israeli counterparts last Friday about the death of Ms Frankcom.

Mr Marles said the killing of aid workers was an “outrage” and “wholly unacceptable”.

“Obviously Australia has an interest here, a deep interest, to understand exactly what has occurred,” he told the ABC’s 7.30 Report on Tuesday.

“That’s why the foreign minister and I wrote the letter that we did last Friday to Israeli counterparts, and obviously we will continue to engage with Israel so that we can properly understand what has happened here and be assured that proper accountability is provided.”

Mr Marles said it was important to properly understand every detail.

“Israel needs to get to the bottom of this, but we need to have a full understanding of this as well, and then we need to be satisfied with the proper accountabilities that play out in respect of this event,” he said.

“That those who engaged in whatever has happened here are held properly to account.

“This is not something that can be satisfied in the course of a few days. This matter needs to play out over time.

“It is critically important for Australia that we see full responsibility taken, that we see the most thorough investigation, that we are given access to that.”

Mr Marles said it was “critically important” for Australia’s relationship with Israel.

Asked whether he expected criminal prosecutions, Mr Marles said he did not want to pre-empt any investigation.

But he added the appointment of Mr Binskin was an opportunity for the two countries to have a common understanding.

“We very much expect and hope that Israel will work closely with Mark Binskin in investigating this matter,” he said.

Despite writing the letter on Friday, Mr Marles confirmed he had not yet received a response from Israel.

“I can’t answer for Israel in relation to this, obviously,” he said.

“But I’m very clear about what Australia expects here and that this is a critical issue in the context of our relationship with Israel.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese urged his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu not to proceed with a flagged ground invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza.

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