Tuesday, July 10, 2012

557 US threatens funding of International Criminal Court to deter Palestinians from War Crimes suit against Israel

US threatens funding of International Criminal Court to deter
Palestinians from War Crimes suit against Israel

(1) UN votes to make Palestine a 'non-member state'; US fears it will
take Israel to ICC
(2) US warns Palestine not to take Israel to International Criminal
Court; withholds $200m Aid
(3) Only Canada, Czech & a few small islands voted NO with Israel & US
(4) A Palestinian state was established on Netanyahu and Lieberman's
watch - Israeli official
(5) Israel fears Palestine case at ICC over Settlements; but "these
institutions rely on US funding"
(6) Palestinians pressured not to sue Israel for war crimes at the
International Criminal Court
(7) Israel fears that Palestine will take it to ICC, which could lead to
economic sanctions
(8) Israel settlement E1 to split West Bank, cutting Ramallah &
Bethlehem from East Jerusalem
(9) Labor's UN move stokes Jewish anger
(10) Fears Julia Gillard isolated by adviser on UN Palestinian vote
(11) Gillard tries to placate Jewish lobby after caucus rolls her on
(12) How Gillard got rolled by Australian Labor caucus

(1) UN votes to make Palestine a 'non-member state'; US fears it will
take Israel to ICC


Updated November 30, 2012 09:46:49

The UN General Assembly has overwhelmingly voted to grant the
Palestinian Authority "non-member state" status.

The vote in New York this morning was carried by 138 votes to nine, with
41 countries, including Australia, abstaining.

The resolution lifts the Palestinian Authority's UN observer status from
"entity" to "non-member state" - like the Vatican.

Palestinians see the move as an important step in the peace process
while the Israelis, supported by the United States, say it will only
inflame tensions.

A major concern for the Americans is that the Palestinians could use
their new status to join the International Criminal Court and pursue
possible war crimes charges against Israel.

The US was swift to condemn the vote this morning, with secretary of
state Hillary Clinton calling it "unfortunate and counterproductive". ...

(2) US warns Palestine not to take Israel to International Criminal
Court; withholds $200m Aid


Palestinians win UN recognition

AFP November 30, 2012 9:44AM

THE UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to recognise Palestine
as a non-member state, handing a major triumph to president Mahmud Abbas
in the face of fierce US and Israeli opposition.

Mr Abbas demanded the United Nations give a “birth certificate” to a
Palestinian state and was rewarded with the backing of 139 countries.

Only nine members heeded Israeli warnings that the move could lead to
more violence and voted against.

Australia was among 41 countries which abstained, after opposition from
Labor MPs forced Julia Gillard to abandon plans to vote against granting
Palestine UN observer status.

The UN vote lifts the status of the Palestinian Authority from an
observer entity to a “non-member observer state” with the same status as
the Vatican.

Even though it is not a full member it can now join UN agencies and
potentially join the International Criminal Court.

Israel immediately condemned Mr Abbas's speech to the General Assembly
ahead of the vote as “defamatory and venomous.”

“The world watched a defamatory and venomous speech that was full of
mendacious propaganda against the IDF (army) and the citizens of
Israel,” said a statement issued by the office of Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slammed the UN vote as
“unfortunate and counterproductive”, saying it “places further obstacles
in the path to peace”.

But in the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians fired in the air, whistled
and embraced each other in celebration after the vote.

As the votes were cast, there was silence among the thousands gathered
in the West Bank city of Ramallah, which erupted with cheers of joy and
chants of “God is greatest” when the 138-9 approval was announced.

The Palestinian leadership says it wants to use the “historic” vote as a
launchpad for talks with Israel which have been frozen for more than two

Mr Abbas, who embraced his foreign minister after the vote and was given
repeated standing ovations, said the vote was “the last chance to save
the two-state solution.”

In a 22-minute speech laced with references to Israel's assault this
month against rockets fired from Gaza, Mr Abbas said Palestinians would
accept “no less than the independence of the state of Palestine with
East Jerusalem as its capital.”

He added: “We must repeat here once again our warning: the window of
opportunity is narrowing and time is quickly running out. The rope of
patience is shortening and hope is withering.”

Mr Abbas said UN members had to “issue a birth certificate of the
reality of the state of Palestine.”

US ambassador Susan Rice condemned the vote as “an obstacle to peace”
because it would not lead to a return to direct talks between the
Israelis and Palestinians.

“Today's grand pronouncements will soon fade and the Palestinian people
will wake up tomorrow and find that little has changed,” she told the
assembly, in a grimly delivered statement.

“This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state.”

The United States blocked a Palestinian application for full membership
of the United Nations that Mr Abbas made in September 2011.

“The UN resolution will not confer statehood on the Palestinian
Authority,” Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor said.

He added that making Palestine a non-member observer state at the UN
“will place further obstacles and preconditions to negotiations and
peace.” He warned that it could lead to increased violence.

Mr Abbas was warned earlier by UN leader Ban Ki-moon that the Middle
East peace process is on “life support” and Israel's Mr Netanyahu also
said the UN General Assembly vote would not create a Palestinian state.

Mr Ban urged both sides to return to talks which currently look a
distant prospect, diplomats said.

The Palestinian leader did not make any reference to the possibility of
joining the International Criminal Court - a major worry for Israel.

But Mr Abbas said the Palestinian Authority would consult with other
countries about new steps after its diplomatic status is bolstered.

“We will act responsibly and positively in our next steps, and we will
to work to strengthen cooperation with the countries and peoples of the
world for the sake of a just peace,” he said.

Talks between the two have been suspended since September 2010, with the
Palestinians blaming Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

The vote comes 10 days after a ceasefire ended a brief but bloody
conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that
holds sway in the Gaza Strip and is a rival of Mr Abbas and his West
Bank-based Fatah faction.

The landmark General Assembly meeting was held on the 65th anniversary
of a UN resolution on the division of the Palestinian territories into a
two-state solution that Mr Ban said “remains tragically unfulfilled.”

The Palestinians say 132 countries now recognize their state bilaterally
and said the result was a boost. Several countries which do not
recognise the Palestinian state, such as France, voted for the resolution.

But several European countries, including some backing the bid, believe
the Palestinians should have waited until after US President Barack
Obama installed his new administration and Israel held elections,
diplomats said.

Success gives the Palestinians access to UN agencies and treaties but
there are divided opinions over whether they will be able to
automatically join the ICC.

Palestinian envoys have said Mr Abbas will not rush to join the court
but could use it if Israel does not change its policies on settlements
and other matters.

The Palestinian Authority and UN agencies that accept Palestinian
participation could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in financing
because of the vote.

US law prohibits funding for any international body recognizing a
Palestinian state.

Washington has warned Mr Abbas he risks losing around $200 million in
aid, which is blocked in the US Congress.

Israel is considering freezing the transfer of tax and customs funds it
collects for the Palestinians, while one Israeli foreign ministry policy
paper even suggested “toppling” the Palestinian Authority.


(3) Only Canada, Czech & a few small islands voted NO with Israel & US


UN rebuffs Israel to recognise Palestinians

November 30, 2012 - 9:02AM

Paul McGeough

NEW YORK: Despite US and Israeli opposition, the United Nations on
Thursday implicitly recognised Palestine as a state, voting
overwhelmingly to designate it a "non-member observer state" – the same
standing accorded to the Vatican among the nations of the world.

Amid noisy cheering and applause by delegates to the UN General
Assembly, the European powers France, Spain and Switzerland rebuffed
entreaties from Washington that they block the Palestinian vote. Others,
including Britain and Germany, opted to abstain, robbing the "No" camp
of numbers that might have made it an opposing "moral majority" sought
by Israel.

Australia was among the abstentions, but only after a caucus revolt
forced the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to abandon plans to side with
Israel and the US.

The vote was 138 to nine, with 41 abstentions. The only countries of
substance to join Israel and the US were Canada and the Czech Republic.

The head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, told a packed
chamber and galleries that Palestinians came to the UN as the
representative and protector of international legitimacy, warning that
this was a last chance to save a two-state solution to the conflict and
that a window of opportunity was closing.

“The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate
of the reality of the State of Palestine,” he said, after acknowledging
that Israel had been issue its birth certificate in a decision by the
same body 65 years earlier to the day. ...

(4) A Palestinian state was established on Netanyahu and Lieberman's
watch - Israeli official


Official: Palestine established on PM, Lieberman's watch

Day before UN expected to approve non-member state status for
Palestinians, top Israeli official says 'when Lieberman butts heads with
Abbas, this is the result.' MK Tibi: Historic event ahead of independent
Palestinian state

Attila Somfalvi

Latest Update: 11.28.12, 22:14 / Israel News

"A Palestinian state was established on Netanyahu and Lieberman's watch.
It will be inscribed forever in the name of Netanyahu and Lieberman," a
senior Israeli official said Wednesday, a day before the UN General
Assembly is expected to vote on a Palestinian bid for recognition as a
non-member observer state.

The entire political establishment agrees that the Palestinian bid,
which is expected to pass, constitutes a major defeat for Israel.
"(Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and (Foreign Minister Avigdor)
Lieberman boasted in the UN last year that the 'moral majority' of
Western states are cooperating with Israel. Now it turns out that the
Palestinians not only have an automatic majority, they also have the
support of Western countries Israel could not recruit in its favor," one
official said.

On Wednesday several Western European countries announced they would
support the Palestinian bid for a diplomatic upgrade at the United
Nations. Even Australia, a close ally of Israel, is expected to abstain
from the vote on the Palestinian bid.

Israel assumes the Western countries decided to support the bid as a
means of bolstering Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas amid Jerusalem's
harsh criticism of the Palestinian Authority. The international
community fears that the weakening of the PA may lead to a Hamas
takeover of the West Bank - a development that would surely heighten
regional tensions.

Israel, and Foreign Minister Lieberman's office in particular,
threatened to impose harsh sanctions on the PA with the purpose of
toppling Abbas' regime and even suggested annulling the Oslo Accords.
However, Israel has toned down its rhetoric over the past few days and
shelved its plans to impose sanctions on the PA.

A senior Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday that "pro-Palestinian
resolutions pass every year. Some of them are extreme. Even in the
'moral majority' group there are countries that do not vote against
these resolutions so as not to lose this majority.

"We were under the assumption that some of these countries would not
back the Palestinian (bid), but Operation Pillar of Defense apparently
changed the reality. There is a sense that the Europeans want to support
Abbas after they criticized Hamas," he said.

Another top official in Jerusalem leveled harsh criticism at the
government's conduct and Lieberman's harsh comments against Abbas. He
claimed that the stalemate in the peace negotiations hurts Israel's
ability to fight the Palestinians' UN bid.

"Had Israel introduced an initiative or diplomatic plan, it would have
been easier for us to demand that (the Western countries) oppose the
Palestinian bid," said the official. "When Lieberman butts heads with
Abbas, this is the result."

Meanwhile, Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) arrived in
New York on Wednesday in order to attend the UN vote.

"This is a historic event on the way to establishing an independent
Palestinian state as part of the two-state solution. I have struggled
for the freedom of the Palestinian people my entire life, which is why
I'm here today," Tibi told reporters.

Tibi also took an active role in last year's Palestinian bid to the UN.
"The Palestinian request if fully legitimate," the MK told Ynet in 2011.
"It is the Palestinian people's right and the revival of the two-state
vision. The prime minister and foreign minister's battle against it is a
lost cause."

The Palestinians may take advantage of their upgraded status in the UN
to act against Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague,
particularly with regards to Israeli construction on Palestinian-owned
lands in the West Bank. Jerusalem believes the Palestinians will not
gain recognition in most international bodies and institutions due to
the fact that these institutions rely on US funding. Congress passed a
law obligating Washington to stop funneling money to international
organizations that recognize a Palestinian state that is not established
within the framework of an agreement with Israel.

An Israeli official said that Thursday's vote in the UN will usher in a
"new reality. It is obvious that Israel is weaker in the international
arena. It was unable to recruit even those countries that supported its
positions last year – those countries that made it clear to the
Palestinians that diplomatic maneuvers cannot be imposed outside the
framework of direct talks and an agreement with Israel.

Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom criticized the international
community, saying its conduct "grants legitimacy to the violation of
agreements. The Oslo agreement is supposed to prevent such initiatives
(Palestinian UN bid)."

Former Foreign Ministry Director-General Uri Savir, one of the chief
negotiators of the Oslo Accords, said Abbas "had no choice. There were
two processes that weakened him: there was no active diplomatic process,
and Hamas grew stronger in the aftermath of Operation Pillar of Defense.

"The UN bid won’t lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, but
it will strengthen him. As far as he is concerned, this keeps the
two-state horizon alive," Savir added.

(5) Israel fears Palestine case at ICC over Settlements; but "these
institutions rely on US funding"


Official: Palestine established on PM, Lieberman's watch

Attila Somfalvi

Latest Update: 11.28.12, 22:14 / Israel News

[...] The Palestinians may take advantage of their upgraded status in
the UN to act against Israel at the International Criminal Court in The
Hague, particularly with regards to Israeli construction on
Palestinian-owned lands in the West Bank. Jerusalem believes the
Palestinians will not gain recognition in most international bodies and
institutions due to the fact that these institutions rely on US funding.
. Congress passed a law obligating Washington to stop funneling money to
international organizations that recognize a Palestinian state that is
not established within the framework of an agreement with Israel.

(6) Palestinians pressured not to sue Israel for war crimes at the
International Criminal Court


Palestinians 'pressured' not to sue Israel

2012-11-28 15:52

Ramallah - The Palestinians are facing "intensive pressure" not to sue
Israel for war crimes at the International Criminal Court should they
win upgraded UN status this week, an official said on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, senior Palestine Liberation
Organisation (PLO) official Hanan Ashrawi said the Palestinian
leadership had not given in to heavy international pressure to commit
that they would not sue Israeli officials at the ICC should they win
recognition as a non-member state at the United Nations.

"We have not succumbed to pressure, we did not give any commitment," she
said, speaking a day before Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas was to
present the upgrade request to the UN General Assembly in New York.

"We haven't decided that tomorrow we are going to be recognised as a
state and the day after, we are going to the International Criminal
Court," Ashrawi said.

Most of the pressure came from the British government, she said.

"The UK did try in an intensive effort to modify the text [of the
resolution] and to get assurances and commitments," she explained.

Access to range of UN agencies

"It wasn't only the UK but it was the most visible. We know that Israel,
of course, was working through the US and through the UK to try and get
commitments that Israel will not be taken to the International Criminal

If the request is approved by the 193 member states of the UN General
Assembly - which is largely seen as a foregone conclusion - it will give
the Palestinians access to a range of UN agencies and also potentially
to the ICC, which is based in The Hague.

Israel strongly opposes the UN bid, saying a Palestinian state can only
emerge through bilateral negotiations and not through a vote by the
global body. Officials fear the Palestinians will use their new-found
status to take legal action against Israeli officials at the ICC.

Ashrawi said she hoped that the threat alone would be enough to make
Israel think twice about its actions vis-a-vis the Palestinians.

"We hope that this will be a positive inducement for corrective action"
on the part of Israel, she said.

"It is our right to join all international agencies and organisations
and we will accede to all international charters and conventions. We
reserve our right to decide on how and when to proceed in accordance
with our best interests."


(7) Israel fears that Palestine will take it to ICC, which could lead to
economic sanctions

From: Iskandar Masih <iskandar38@hotmail.com> Date: Fri, 23 Nov 2012
16:13:36 +0500


Israel: "We will annul Oslo Accords if Palestinians seek upgraded UN

By Barak Ravid, Nov.14, 2012 (Haaretz)

Israeli ambassadors around the world were instructed to deliver a
message to the presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers of the
countries in which they serve, stating Israel will consider partial or
full cancellation of the Oslo Accords if the United Nations General
Assembly adopts the resolution to upgrade the status of Palestine to
that of a non-member observer state in the organization. ...

Monday evening, Netanyahu held a meeting with a number of his senior
ministers to deal with the issue Israel fears the most: a scenario in
which Palestine’s new status as a non-member state would allow it to be
accepted as a member of the International Criminal Court of the UN in
the Hague and demand Israel and its leaders be tried for war crimes.
Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court, and as a
result its decisions do not obligate Israel. But a prosecution against
Israel or senior Israeli officials in the international court could
initiate a wave of criminal proceedings against Israel around the world
and encourage the implementation of various economic sanctions against
Israel, such as a ban on imports from the settlements.

During the meeting with Netanyahu, Lieberman and Finance Minister Yuval
Steinitz said the Palestinian approach to the International Criminal
Court would be “a declaration of war,” which would require Israel to
respond even more strongly than the Palestinian initiative in the
General Assembly.

(8) Israel settlement E1 to split West Bank, cutting Ramallah &
Bethlehem from East Jerusalem


Israel's growing settlements are fast approaching 'point of no return'

Sydney Morning Herald, December 03 2012

Jodi Rudoren

JERUSALEM: High in an empty, mountainous expanse east of Jerusalem there
is a stone patio with a pair of green metal benches and a plaque marking
the cornerstone of a future Jewish community. Dedicated in 2009, the
plaque promises the new city will be built "adjacent to the united
Jerusalem, which will be quickly re-established".

Jerusalem, which both Israel and the Palestinians see as their capital,
is anything but united, with fierce fights over its development posing
perhaps the greatest threat to the prospects of peace. And beyond the
cornerstone, nothing has been erected since in this contentious 7.4
square kilometre area, known as E1, where there are many more goats than

But Israel's announcement on Friday that it was moving ahead with zoning
and planning preparations for the area could change all that, and many
fear could close the window on the chance for a two-state solution to
the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Construction in E1, in West Bank territory that Israel captured in the
1967 war, would connect the large Jewish settlement of Ma'ale Adumim to
Jerusalem, dividing the West Bank in two. The Palestinian cities of
Ramallah and Bethlehem would be cut off from the capital, making the
contiguous Palestinian state endorsed by the United Nations last week
virtually impossible. Although Israeli officials did not call the move
retaliation for the UN vote, most people here assumed the timing was not

"It's like two three-year-old children playing, and one is hitting and
the other is slapping instead of sitting down," 56-year-old Israeli Alex
Lash said. "It's a never-ending story: We are doing something, they are
doing something, one movement brings the other side's movement. There is
no end for that."

Zakaria al-Qaq, a professor of national security at Al Quds University
and a resident of the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan, also
described the situation as a hopeless "cycle of action and reaction". He
said the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was under pressure to act
because of the Israeli elections on January 22. "Netanyahu is trying to
enforce something on the ground and gain the hearts and minds of the
Israeli public."

The development of E1, a project the United States has blocked several
times since 1994, has long been seen as a diplomatic third rail, and
several experts said on Saturday that they expected Israel may again
back down from building there. But several other controversial housing
projects within Jerusalem have been rushed through recently raising the
ire of the Palestinian leadership, left-leaning Israelis and the
international community, most of whom see the settlements as a violation
of international law.

Along with zoning and planning for E1, Israel on Thursday approved 3000
new housing units in unspecified parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The Jerusalem lawyer and longtime anti-settlement activist Dani
Seidemann said that even before the latest decision, the government had
issued tenders for the construction of 2366 units in 2012, more than
twice the number built in the previous three years combined.

These include more than 1200 units in Ramot and Pisgat Ze'ev -
decades-old upscale Jewish neighbourhoods of 40,000-plus residents that
straddle Beit Hanina in the northern reaches of the municipality. Late
last month, final approval of 2610 units in an undeveloped southern
stretch known as Givat HaMatos was postponed under international
pressure because it was scheduled while the US Secretary of State,
Hillary Clinton, was in the region trying to negotiate an end to
Israel's conflict with the Gaza Strip.

"Now approaching the point of no return," Seidemann said during a tour
of the area on Saturday. "It's the largest settlement surge in Jerusalem
since the 1970s."

The New York Times

(9) Labor's UN move stokes Jewish anger


The Australian

November 30, 2012

A KEY Jewish community group says it is very disappointed with the
Gillard government's decision to abstain from the vote to grant UN
observer status for a Palestinian state.

"We think Australia could have taken a stronger stand," said Mark
Leibler, chairman of the Australia, Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.
Login to read the rest of this article ...

(10) Fears Julia Gillard isolated by adviser on UN Palestinian vote

From: Denis McC <wizard_of_aus@hotmail.com> Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2012
04:54:06 +0000


Dennis Shanahan and Joe Kelly

The Australian

December 01, 2012 12:00AM

AFTER Julia Gillard had announced on Tuesday afternoon that Australia
would abstain from a UN General Assembly vote on state observer status
for the Palestinians, two things happened.

Our most important ally, the US, decided to make its "disappointment"
clear to the Australian ambassador in Washington, Kim Beazley, and the
Prime Minister's "special emissary to the Jewish community", Bruce
Wolpe, was fingered as having an inordinate influence on Ms Gillard, who
had intended to vote against the UN motion. Login to read the rest of
this article ...

(11) Gillard tries to placate Jewish lobby after caucus rolls her on


Gillard reassures Israel of backing despite UN vote

Phillip Coorey

November 29, 2012

{photo} "We all want to wake up in a world where Israel can live behind
secure borders" ... Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Photo: Andrew Meares {end}

THE Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has sought to placate an angry Jewish
lobby with strong words of support in Parliament for Israel after
Australia backed Palestine at the United Nations.

Ms Gillard's leadership is bruised but intact after she was forced to
abandon her support for Israel to avoid being rolled by her own caucus.

Senior colleagues acknowledged that had Ms Gillard not backed down on
the issue, it could have spelt the end of her leadership.

"This has weakened her leadership but had she lost [in caucus] it would
have been worse," said one senior source.

Another said: "She could have got it through the caucus but it would
have come at a cost."

At the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, Australia will abstain
from a vote on a resolution to give Palestine observer status at the UN.

Ms Gillard had wanted Australia to join the United States, Israel,
Canada and a handful of smaller nations in voting no but faced stiff
resistance led by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bob Carr, and
supported by MPs from the Left and Right factions, most notably the
usually pro-Israel NSW Right.

During a heated cabinet meeting on Monday night, only two ministers
backed Ms Gillard while 10 argued for a abstention or a yes vote.

Ms Gillard insisted on a no vote and cabinet had no choice but to back
her. But she was warned subsequently by factional bosses the Right would
not be supporting her in the caucus on Tuesday morning when MPs were set
to vote on a motion to back Palestine.

Behind the scenes, the former prime minister Bob Hawke and the former
foreign minister Gareth Evans were agitating among the backbench against
Ms Gillard's position.

Ms Gillard agreed to an abstention just before caucus met, avoiding a

The push against her straddled the divide between Gillard supporters and
Kevin Rudd supporters. There was a general frustration in the ALP that
Ms Gillard took so long to cede to the majority view.

One factor driving the NSW Right was Labor's poor stock in western
Sydney, where MPs and ministers are being lobbied by voters with a
Middle-Eastern background.

But while this was a factor in the revolt, it was not the the only one.

The Israeli embassy and the Jewish lobby are angry at the decision and
members of the lobby are seeking a meeting with the Prime Minister.

In Parliament, Ms Gillard said the decision to abstain was not a
reflection on Australia's support for Israel and a two-state solution in
the Middle East.

She said, "we all want to wake up in a world where Israel can live
behind secure borders" and where Israelis no longer had to fear random
rocket attacks.

The US Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey Bleich, said the decision would
not effect Australia's strong relationship with Washington.

Senator Carr defended Ms Gillard, saying it was not about her leadership.

Senator Carr is a founder of the group, Labor friends of Israel. One of
his colleagues said Senator Carr believes that "as a friend of Israel,
at times you've got to save it from itself".

(12) How Gillard got rolled by Australian Labor caucus

The day Bob Carr won Mid-East conflict


The Australian

November 29, 2012 12:00AM

JULIA Gillard's prime ministership must have flashed before her eyes in
the early hours of Tuesday morning.

In a night of high drama, she came dangerously close to precipitating a
full-blown crisis that could have brought her leadership to a premature end.

The Gillard government was pushed to the brink over the Prime Minister's
insistence that Australia vote against Palestine's bid to upgrade its
status at the UN. Just minutes before the caucus meeting, Foreign
Minister Bob Carr stood in Gillard's office and told her, eyeball to
eyeball, to change her mind or she faced a humiliating defeat.

He pleaded with her to back an abstention on the UN General Assembly
motion to recognise Palestine as a non-member state observer.

In the end, Gillard relented and a crisis was averted, but only narrowly.

It came after a series of dramatic meetings that tested loyalties and
long-standing fealty to Gillard's embattled leadership.

At one point, sources suggest, Gillard considered the unprecedented step
of calling a meeting of the full ministry and parliamentary secretaries
-- 42 MPs and senators -- to bind them to her position in a full meeting
of 102 caucus members.

Even the attempt to coral the executive into supporting a view an
overwhelming number of the cabinet and the caucus opposed would have
finished Gillard's prime ministership.

Several ministers and backbenchers had been warning Gillard for weeks
that the position on the UN vote, slated for Friday, needed to be
finalised in order to instruct the ambassador to the UN, Gary Quinlan,
on what to do.

They were seized by the dramatic change in the caucus on the
Israel-Palestine issue, with several factors that have been slowly
building within Labor -- Israel's settlement policy, increasing violence
by settlers against Palestinians and a right-wing Israeli prime minister
who backed Mitt Romney over Barack Obama.

There is concern both Israel and the Palestinian Authority are stalling
on a two-state solution and that the outcome of the UN vote could
positively energise those discussions.

And, critically, there is the growing Muslim and Christian make-up of
several key western Sydney Labor seats, which have exposed MPs to
different points of view on the Middle East.

Some sections of the party suggest Victorian Labor is too close to the
Israel lobby and does not fully understand the underlying changes in
Sydney's outer suburbs.

However, one Victorian minister said: "How are we going to solve Labor's
challenges in western Sydney by the way we vote at the UN?"

Before the cabinet meeting late on Monday, Gillard met with senior
ministers for two hours to discuss the UN vote. Carr sketched out the
foreign policy argument for not opposing the Palestinian motion that he
believed was in Australia's interests.

Environment Minister Tony Burke, holding a seat in southwest Sydney,
explained the shift in the community he had been feeling on this issue
for a long time.

Wayne Swan, Defence Minister Stephen Smith, Communications Minister
Stephen Conroy and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese also attended.

Before this meeting, Gillard made an extraordinary request to the NSW
Right faction convenor and chief government whip, Joel Fitzgibbon. She
wanted him to bind the Right behind her position. Fitzgibbon refused.

Meanwhile, former prime minister Bob Hawke, a long-time ardent supporter
of Israel, was arguing behind the scenes for Australia not to oppose the
motion on Palestine. So had his foreign minister, Gareth Evans, who
warned Labor MPs and senators not to be "on the wrong side of history".

In cabinet, Gillard introduced the topic and stated her position.
Albanese, Burke, Trade Minister Craig Emerson, Arts Minister Simon
Crean, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, Industry Minister Greg
Combet, School Education Minister Peter Garrett and Immigration Minister
Chris Bowen all spoke against it.

Conroy and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten, both of the
Victorian Right, indicated support for Gillard's position.

Carr also spoke, and made the case for not opposing the UN motion. Some
ministers regard this as breaking his word to Gillard not to speak.
Others say he had no choice but to offer his view, given the spirited

At the end of the meeting, Gillard summed up the debate and cabinet
agreed to back her judgment, given she is Prime Minister. After what one
minister described as "a barrage of opposition", the meeting broke up in
stunned amazement. Gillard remained steadfast. Few can understand why
she so trenchantly held the view that it must be a no vote. Even her
closest supporters were telling her it was a lost cause in caucus. After
cabinet finished, a cabal of ministers met to discuss strategy and
started contacting caucus members. The details of the cabinet meeting
quickly reverberated around Parliament House. A motion to support the
Palestinian bid was on the agenda for caucus the next morning and was
likely to be supported.

Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change Mark Dreyfus, from the
Victorian Right, urged Fitzgibbon to have the national Right bind its
MPs and senators in support of Gillard's position.

Fitzgibbon rebuffed Dreyfus several times on Monday and again on Tuesday.

Gillard met with key members of the Left and Right separately before the
caucus meeting on Tuesday morning. She also met again with several

The Treasurer alerted her to the danger that lay ahead. Sources say it
was not until then that Gillard was fully cognisant of the weight of
numbers against her. Until then, one observer says, "Gillard was all at

Backbench MP Andrew Leigh had before parliament a motion urging a yes
vote, to recognise Palestine as a non-member state observer at the UN.
Leigh was reluctant to back away from it. Part of the deal reached with
Gillard to support an abstention vote required Leigh to withdraw the
motion, which he did.

This was not a secret back-door attempt to white-ant a prime minister;
it was conducted in full view to get Gillard to make what MPs believe is
the right policy decision in Australia's interests.

Carr worked as craftily as he had ever done as NSW premier to see his
view prevail. Some say the vigour with which he pursued this has put him
offside with some in the party. Others say it marks his arrival as a
serious political player in Canberra.

Carr will not be critical of Gillard's leadership. He believes she made
the right call in the end.

Moreover, along with eight other ministers, he saved Gillard's neck. As
one familiar with the discussions said yesterday: "If the caucus
resolution on abstention didn't go under her feet, she would have gone
under the ice."

No comments:

Post a Comment