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Australia, US send mixed messages about Israel-Hamas War

TJI Wrap
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Scoreboard showing 'Voting result In favour 153. Against 10, Abstention 23"

Voting results at the UN resolution in favour of an immediate humanitarian ceasefire this week (EPA/SARAH YENESEL)

Published: 13 December 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

A joint statement from Australia, Canada, and NZ unequivocally condemned Hamas but Australia voted for an immediate ceasefire at the UN and Biden's clear support is slipping.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week released a joint statement expressing concern for both Israelis and Palestinians. The statement recognised Israel's right to defend itself and declared Hamas has no role in the future of Gaza, but warned that the price of defeating the terrorist group cannot be the continuous suffering of Palestinian civilians.

The statement came on the same day as a controversial UN vote and as US President Joe Biden revealed cracks in the strong support he has given to Israel since the Hamas attack on October 7, warning Israel was in danger of losing international support due to the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is visiting Israel from Thursday to discuss the war's "timetable" and Israeli officials are concerned he will present Israel with an American deadline of just a few weeks to end the fighting.

The US is increasingly isolated on the world stage in its support of Israel. At the United Nations on Tuesday, 153 of the 193 member countries voted for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. Australia was among the countries supporting the resolution. Ten countries including the US, Israel and Austria voted against, and 23 – including the UK and Germany – abstained.

The nonbinding resolution, introduced by Egypt, also called for the unconditional release of hostages and for the besieged enclave to have access to aid.

Israel's foreign minister Eli Cohen responded to the vote by saying Israel will continue the war in Gaza "with or without international support". A ceasefire at this stage of the conflict would be "a gift" to Hamas and allow it to return, he said.

SMH/Age chief political correspondent David Crowe said Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong took their Labor colleagues by surprise with the UN vote. Caucus members were expecting the prime minister and foreign minister to side with the United States or repeat their decision six weeks ago when Australia abstained on a similar UN resolution.

"Wong describes the latest vote as “consistent” with government policy, rather than marking a sudden break. She is right in the sense that she called for “steps towards a ceasefire” on November 12 and this new resolution demands an immediate ceasefire. In truth, however, there has been a shift. Australia abstained on a call for a ceasefire at the UN on October 28 because the resolution did not condemn Hamas for its terror attacks on Israel on October 7. Australia voted in favour of the latest resolution even though the wording does not condemn the October 7 attacks either," wrote Crowe.

The Zionist Federation of Australia and Executive Council of Australian Jewry described Australia's UN vote and the prime ministerial statement as inconsistent.

"The Australian Government cannot have it both ways. Either it stands by its position in the joint statement that recognises that Hamas must be removed from power and return all the hostages, or it supports a ceasefire which would allow Hamas to remain in power and deliver on its promise to repeat the attacks of 7 October at the earliest possible opportunity," leaders of the two organisations said in a statement.

Labor MP Josh Burns, who is Jewish, broke ranks with the government over his party's call for a ceasefire. Speaking from Israel, he told RN Breakfast that while he is supportive of a "pause" in fighting, any ceasefire could not be one-sided. He added that not including Hamas in the UN general assembly resolution calling for a ceasefire is "ludicrous".

Israel 'alienating allies'

Biden said on Tuesday that he warned Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza was beginning to alienate Europe and the rest of the international community.

Speaking at a 2024 re-election campaign fundraiser in Washington, the US president ramped up pressure on Israel over any post-hostilities deal. He said the Israelis “can’t say no” to a Palestinian state, and urged Netanyahu not to repeat the mistakes made by the US after 9/11.

Invoking specifically the prolonged US war in Afghanistan, he said: “There’s no reason we did so many of the things we did”.

While Israel could rely on the US for its security, Biden warned that the alliance of international support that had been created in the wake of the October 7 attack by Hamas was now in peril.

Israel “has the European Union, it has Europe, it has most of the world supporting them, but they’re starting to lose that support by indiscriminate bombing that takes place”.

He also had some harsh words for the Netanyahu government, which he called “the most conservative” in the country’s history. Biden went as far as to say that Netanyahu had to “change this government”, singling out Itamar Ben-Gvir, the far-right national security minister, who opposes a future two-state solution.

His comments reflect growing divisions over what happens after the war: US calls for Gaza to be turned over to a reformed Palestinian Authority have received a cool reception in Israel.

Australian Prime Minister Anthont Albanese, NZ Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Australian Prime Minister Anthont Albanese, NZ Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The joint statement

The full text of the statement released by the three prime ministers reads:

"Australia, Canada, and New Zealand mourn every Israeli and Palestinian innocent life which has been lost in this conflict and express our condolences to all families and communities affected by the violence.

"We unequivocally condemn Hamas’ terror attacks on Israel on October 7, the appalling loss of life, and the heinous acts of violence perpetrated in those attacks, including sexual violence. We condemn Hamas’ unacceptable treatment of hostages and call for the immediate and unconditional release of all remaining hostages.

"We recognise Israel’s right to exist and right to defend itself. In defending itself, Israel must respect international humanitarian law. Civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected. We are alarmed at the diminishing safe space for civilians in Gaza. The price of defeating Hamas cannot be the continuous suffering of all Palestinian civilians.

"We remain deeply concerned by the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and ongoing risks to all Palestinian civilians. Safe and unimpeded humanitarian access must be increased and sustained.

"The recent pause in hostilities allowed for the release of more than 100 hostages and supported an increase in humanitarian access to affected civilians. We acknowledge the persistent diplomatic efforts of the United States, Qatar, and Egypt to broker this pause, and we regret it could not be extended.

"We want to see this pause resumed and support urgent international efforts towards a sustainable ceasefire. This cannot be one-sided. Hamas must release all hostages, stop using Palestinian civilians as human shields, and lay down its arms.

"There is no role for Hamas in the future governance of Gaza.

"We support Palestinians’ right to self-determination. We oppose the forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, the re-occupation of Gaza, any reduction in territory, and any use of siege or blockade. We emphasize that Gaza must no longer be used as a platform for terrorism. We reaffirm that settlements are illegal under international law. Settlements and settler violence are serious obstacles to a negotiated two-state solution.

"We recommit ourselves to working with partners toward a just and enduring peace in the form of a two-state solution, where Israelis and Palestinians can live securely within internationally recognised borders. 

"We remain concerned about the impact of the conflict spilling across the region and urge all governments in the region to work towards containing the conflict. We call on the Houthis to cease immediately their attacks on international shipping and crew operating in the Red Sea.

"We condemn rising antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab sentiment in our countries and around the world and remain firmly committed to combatting prejudice, hatred, and violent extremism."


Biden warns Netanyahu that Israel attacks on Gaza are alienating allies (Guardian)

Australia breaks with US, backs Gaza ceasefire at United Nations (SMH)

Israel to continue Gaza war with or without international support, FM says (BBC)

After rare critique, Biden dispatches top adviser to Israel for talks on Gaza war timetable (Haaretz)

The big call Albanese and Wong made in secret (SMH)

US increasingly alone in Israel support as 153 countries vote for ceasefire at UN (Guardian)

Joint Statement by Zionist Federation of Australia and Executive Council of Australian Jewry (PDF)

Listen: Labor MP Josh Burns breaks ranks over ceasefire calls (ABC)


Listen: Minister defends Australia's UN resolution stance (ABC)
The Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts has restated Australia's support for a controversial UN resolution, while admitting it "could have gone further".

Aid Group: Israeli Army dragging its feet as Gazans die waiting for medical care (Haaretz)
Some 50,000 Palestinians have been wounded in the war, according to Hamas' health authorities, but only a minority receive timely care. An Israeli NGO appealed to the Israeli army to speed up the process of allowing Gazans to get treatment abroad.

Israel begins pumping seawater into Hamas' Gaza tunnels  (Wall Street Journal)
The Israeli military has begun pumping seawater into Hamas' tunnel complex in Gaza, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday citing unnamed U.S. officials, adding that the process would likely take weeks.

Tunnels of cash and cryptocurrency: Hamas' finances explained (Haaretz)
Hamas runs the Gaza Strip and its terror operations with an estimated annual budget of $2.5 billion. Here's where the money comes from – and how the Islamist group has managed to evade harsh sanctions.

Israel's hunt for the most-wanted person in Gaza (Axios)
Israel's military operation against Hamas is now focused on capturing or killing the most wanted person in Gaza: Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, Israeli officials tell Axios.

President Biden, Jewish American safety is your responsibility, not Israel’s (Emily Tamkin, The Forward)
Over seven million Jews live in the United States. It is our president’s job to protect us.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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