Australian PM under fire for stance on Palestine UN upgrade

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has come under heavy pressure from Jewish and pro-Israeli groups after announcing that Canberra would abstain from a vote for the upgrading of the status of Palestine at the UN.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Australia’s Jewish groups have demanded a meeting with the premier to express their anger over her decision and to urge her to vote against the bid which would upgrade Palestine’s status at the UN from “observer entity” to “observer state.” 

The observer state status will grant Palestinians access to UN agencies and the International Criminal Court, where they could file formal complaints against the Israeli regime. 

Reports say that the Israeli embassy in Canberra was also angry with Gillard’s decision. 

On November 26, acting Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas submitted a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly, requesting the upgrade. The UN assembly will vote on the bid on Thursday, November 29. 

Palestinians need a majority vote from 193 members of the General Assembly to win the bid. 

Currently, as many as 150 nations, which already recognize Palestine as a sovereign state, are in favor of the upgrade. 

Gillard, a staunch ally of the Israeli regime, had decided to vote “no” on the Palestinian UN recognition, but was forced by her cabinet ministers to vote “yes” or abstain at the UN. 

Seeking to blunt negative reaction to her abstention vote, the Australian premier reiterated her commitment to Israel in the parliament on Tuesday. 

“We all want to wake up in a world where Israel can live behind secure borders,” she said. 

Christopher Pyne, a senior opposition politician, said that Gillard’s abstention vote would be a serious blow to Australia’s ties with Israel. 

“One shouldn’t underestimate how dramatic it is that Australia is now abstaining from a vote for the Palestinian territories and the Palestinian Authority to gain observer status at the United Nations,” Pyne said. 

Many of the European Union states, including Austria, Denmark, France and Spain, are expected to support the Palestinian bid at the UN.