This background note highlights some key public statements by Australian Government officials on the Arab-Israeli conflict as a way of illustrating Australia’s evolving policies towards the Middle East.
It focuses on Australia’s publicly stated position on Palestinian statehood, but also references Australia’s response to the many developments concerning the Arab-Israeli dispute over the years. The period covered is from 1947—when the UN was debating the future of the British Mandate territory of Palestine—to the end of the Howard Government in December 2007. A related Parliamentary Library publication examines Australian policy towards the Arab-Israeli dispute under the Labor Governments between December 2007 and May 2012.
Former Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd recently suggested that Australian support for a Palestinian or ‘Arab’ state on the territory of Mandate Palestine goes back to 1947, when Australia voted at the United Nations (UN) to create ‘a modern State of Israel, and a homeland for the Palestinian people as well’. While technically true, Australia only began actually advocating for the creation of Palestinian ‘homeland’ in the 1970s and 1980s, and began explicitly calling for an ‘independent’ Palestinian ‘state’ in the 2000s.
What is evident from the statements included below is that the Australian Government’s public position on Palestinian statehood, and the Middle East conflict more generally, has slowly evolved over the last 60 years. Significant changes in broader policy generally occur over successive governments, rather than changing as governments change. Small changes, and often more significant changes in the ‘tone’ of public statements, do occur as governments change, as will be shown below.
This Background Note makes extensive use of historical documents recently digitised by the Parliamentary Library. These include Hansard and ‘political party documents’—party policy documents and election material—back to 1901.