Australia joins historic UN vote in move labelled 'shameful' by Opposition

Australia's UN representative James Larsen joined other nations in supporting greater international status for Palestine.

Australia's UN representative James Larsen pictured at the vote.
Australia's UN representative James Larsen has backed an international motion that has proved controversial back home. Source: ABC

Australia has backed a major international push that could lead to official Palestinian statehood amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza. In a historic vote carried out at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the international body lodged their support for a bid by Palestine to become a full member of the UN.

The resolution, which recognised that Palestine was qualified to join, overwhelmingly passed early this morning (AEST), with Australia among the countries to support it.

Currently Palestine is considered an "observer" and does have an ambassador to the UN, but the vote upgrades its status. While it is not yet a full member, it bestows greater rights and privileges (to come into effect in September) and recommends the UN Security Council "favourably" reconsider Palestine gaining full membership after the US vetoed a similar resolution.

In total, 143 nations — including Australia — voted in favour of the non-binding resolution, while nine voted against it and 25 abstained from the vote.

The United States and Israel were among the nine countries to vote against it.

The move is seen as a de facto step towards future Palestinian statehood, the ABC reported. However full UN membership is considered unlikely.

It comes seven months into the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the largest militant group in the Palestinian territories. Australia has previously abstained from voting on a call for an immediate humanitarian truce in the war.

Palestinian Permanent Representative to the UN, Riyad Mansour, accepts the congratulations.
Palestinian Permanent Representative to the UN, Riyad Mansour, accepts the congratulations following the vote. Source: Getty
Ambassadors celebrate on the floor of the UN general assembly.
Full membership is still considered highly unlikely. Source: Getty

Australia's UN representative James Larsen said the resolution rejected the goals and methods of Hamas, condemned its October 7 attack on Israel, and called for hostage releases.

"Australia has long believed a two-state solution offers the only hope for breaking the endless cycle of violence and achieving lasting peace," he said. "Like many member states, Australia has been frustrated by the lack of progress."

Back in Australia, the opposition Foreign Affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham accused the government of lacking courage in the face of pressure.

"Labor's support for the resolution sends a shameful message that violence and terrorism get results ahead of negotiation and diplomacy," he said on Saturday.

Voting in favour of the resolution put us out of step with important allies who abstained or rejected it and risked emboldening terrorists, he argued.

Simon Birmingham and a raft of other Liberals have slammed Australia's decision. Source: AAP
Simon Birmingham and a raft of other Liberals have slammed Australia's decision. Source: AAP

The Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, James Patterson, also derided the move as "shameful".

"Before the election Labor told Australians, including the Jewish community, that there was no difference between the major parties on Israel. Our shameful vote at the UN last night is yet further evidence this was a lie. Only the Coalition stands with Israel," he posted on Saturday morning.

Meanwhile former Liberal prime minister Tony Abbott also took to social media to decry our government's support.

"Dismayed that Australia has broken eight decades of bi-partisanship," he wrote. "Shame the government has forgotten [former Labor PM] Bob Hawke’s declaration that 'if the bell tolls for Israel…it tolls for all mankind'."

Meanwhile Israel's ambassador to Australia Amir Maimon took to social media to express his "disappointment" saying it "would only reward Hamas for the atrocities they committed ... [and is] a reward that will only empower Iran and Hamas to further destabilise the region."

The vote came amid international condemnation as Israel pushed further into Rafah, Gaza's last refuge where more than one million Palestinians are sheltering following widespread destruction of the strip.

China said the resolution reflects the will of the international community and accused the US of misusing its veto powers.

The general assembly meeting adjourned and will reconvene on Monday in New York.

with AAP

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