15 January 2014

Australia FM: Don’t call settlements illegal under international law

From Times of Israel, 15 January, 2014, by Raphael Ahren: 
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, left, with FM Avigdor Liberman in Jerusalem, January 13, 2014 (photo credit: Yossi Zamir)
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, left, with FM Avigdor Liberman in Jerusalem, January 13, 2014 
(photo credit: Yossi Zamir)

In candid interview, Julie Bishop [Australia’s foreign minister
  • expresses skepticism about the peace process, 
  • says boycott Israel activists are ‘anti-Semitic’... 
  • has said that the international community should refrain from calling settlements illegal under international law, without waiting for their status to be determined in a deal with the Palestinians.
In an exclusive interview with The Times of Israel, Julie Bishop suggested that, contrary to conventional diplomatic wisdom, the settlements may not be illegal under international law. She refrained from condemning Israeli initiatives to build additional housing units beyond the Green Line or from calling on Israel to freeze such plans, merely saying the fact that settlements were being expanded showed the need for the sides to quickly reach a peace agreement.
“I don’t want to prejudge the fundamental issues in the peace negotiations,” Bishop said. “The issue of settlements is absolutely and utterly fundamental to the negotiations that are under way and I think it’s appropriate that we give those negotiations every chance of succeeding.”
Asked whether she agrees or disagrees with the...view that Israeli settlements anywhere beyond the 1967 lines are illegal under international law, she replied: “I would like to see which international law has declared them illegal.”

...“Our interest is in a negotiated peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and we believe that every opportunity should be given to those negotiations to proceed to its solution,” said Bishop, who came to Israel on Monday to attend the funeral of former prime minister Ariel Sharon. “I don’t think it’s helpful to prejudge the settlement issue if you’re trying to get a negotiated solution. And by deeming the activity as a war crime, it’s unlikely to engender a negotiated solution.”

The issue of Israeli settlements should be determined in the course of the current US-brokered peace talks, she added.

... since September, when the center-right Liberal Party of Prime Minister Tony Abbott came to power in Canberra, Australia has been going to great lengths to demonstrate staunch support for Jerusalem’s policy on the international stage. 
Julie Bishop changed Australia's voting patterns at the UN in favor of Israel

Under Bishop’s stewardship, Australia has changed its voting patterns at the UN in favor of Israel. While under her predecessor, Bob Carr, Canberra often supported anti-Israel resolutions at the UN General Assembly, she has had Australia oppose or abstain from several such measures.

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr speaks during a news conference at the annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, in Perth, Australia. (photo credit: AP/Matt Rourke)
Former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr often supported anti-Israel resolutions at the UN 
(photo credit: AP/Matt Rourke)

In November, Australia was one of only eight countries to abstain in a vote on a resolution demanding that Israel cease “all Israeli settlement activities in all of the occupied territories.” Nearly 160 nations supported the resolution. In December, Australia was one of 13 countries that did not vote in favor of a resolution calling on Israel to “comply scrupulously” with the Geneva Convention (169 countries voted yes).

“I considered each one [of these votes] on its merit and looked at the totality of the resolutions on similar matters across the UN and I decided and asked the [Foreign Affairs and Trade] Department to take on my instructions accordingly that we would consider each resolution and ensure that what we’re doing was balanced,” Bishop told The Times of Israel in the interview. “The Australian government is confident that the position it has adopted is balanced. It’s not one-sided.”

The current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks “should be given any chance of succeeding,” the minister said, yet she sounded pessimistic when asked how realistic were the prospects of a final-status deal.

Citing regional turmoil, Bishop appeared to echo her Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Liberman, who often argues that it is foolish to seek to lay the foundation for a new building amid an earthquake.

“I wonder whether the timing will work against us, given the instability in the region, with Syria and Lebanon and Jordan and Egypt and Iraq,” she said. “The peace process is a challenge in and of itself. But in these current times, in this current context, I expect it will be even more challenging.”

Australian FM Julie Bishop after she placed a wreath at the fresh grave of Ariel Sharon, January 13. 2013 (screen capture: YouTube)
Australian FM Julie Bishop after she placed a wreath at the fresh grave of Ariel Sharon, January 13. 2013 
(screen capture: YouTube)

Bishop also condemned what she said was excessive pressure exerted on Israel by Western states and civil society, including the threat of boycotts.
“Israel has to be ever vigilant against such tendencies on the part of the international community,” the minister said. ...any Australian body that received state funding should be barred from calling for boycotts, she continued.She also strongly condemned the global anti-Israel BDS movement: “It’s anti-Semitic. It identifies Israel out of all other nations as being worthy of a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign? Hypocritical beyond belief.”