Will Australia strike a match to the Middle East tinder box?

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Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker called for “a setting based on partnership, not punitive enforcement threats.” (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic) Darko Vojinovic

Will Australia strike a match to the Middle East tinder box?

Israel is facing a perfect storm. Bungled judicial reform has sparked unprecedented internal unrest.

As President Joe Biden garners a reputation throughout the region for throwing allies under the bus, Israel’s external enemies smell blood in the water. In a telephone call with his Iranian counterpart, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared, “The Islamic world should be united against Israel’s attacks in Palestine.”

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His words were in reference to Israeli strikes to take out missile launchers and terror cells. Palestinian terror groups have stepped up their activity, most recently running two British-Israeli sisters off the road and then executing them. The Lebanese Hezbollah and Hamas appear now to coordinate their missile and rocket attacks. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei last week quipped Israel’s demise is coming even quicker than he expected.

Perhaps Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s calls for urgent de-escalation will work temporarily. So long, however, as rogue regimes and regional rejectionists believe violence works, and they can make an end run around diplomacy, they will continue pursuing the tactics of terror. Unfortunately, an unlikely source —Australia — may soon validate their logic.

At the Australian Labour Party National Conference in December 2018, Penny Wong, today Australia’s foreign minister, proposed a resolution calling upon “the next Labor Government to recognize Palestine as a state; and expects that this issue will be an important priority for the next Labor Government.” Tony Burke, manager of Government Business in the House, seconded the resolution. At its March 30, 2021, National Conference, Wong again proposed a motion to elevate the resolution to the party’s policy platform.

It would be dangerous for Washington or Jerusalem to believe Wong and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese are merely virtue signaling to appease their progressive base.

Six months ago, Wong not only reversed Australia’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but also signaled to Palestinian extremists that even Israeli sovereignty over West Jerusalem — part of Israel since 1949 — could be up for grabs. Wong has also doubled Australian funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and provides an almost equal amount bilaterally, even as Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas continues his “pay-to-slay” subsidies of suicide bomber families and Holocaust denial.

The danger that Australia’s unilateral recognition of Palestine would bring is real.

First, it would legitimize and encourage Palestinian, Hezbollah, and Iranian terrorism. In 2000 and 2008, Israel offered the Palestinian Authority peace deals, the latter of which included territory equal to more than 100% of the West Bank and Gaza, taking into account corollary land swaps. The Palestinian Authority rejected the offers they themselves had negotiated and made no counteroffers. By giving the Palestinian Authority a free pass, Albanese and Wong would set the diplomatic clock back more than a quarter century and encourage all sides to act unilaterally rather than through diplomacy.

Australia’s actions would also be a disaster for religious freedom and cultural heritage. By not tying recognition to any final status agreement on the preservation of religious sites, for example, Australia would give Palestinian extremists a green light to destroy Jewish and Christian heritage sites in their new state.

Such unilateral action would be more harmful on the world stage, though, as authoritarians like Russian President Vladimir Putin would use the Albanese principles to justify his own unilateral recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Australian officials may say they are committed to peace, but prioritizing progressive propaganda over ground reality will be a disaster for the entire region. The current unrest is a last gasp by reactionaries and rejectionists to reverse the forward progress of the Abraham Accords. For Australia to act now would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and throw the region into disarray.

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Washington should not be caught off-guard. If Biden and Blinken truly wish to head off Middle East chaos they should intercede with Canberra before it is too late.

Michael Rubin (@mrubin1971) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential. He is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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