Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr's announcement in the heat of an election campaign that Labor Party policy does not recognize the legal right of Jews to live in the West Bank seems to have been hastily clobbered together without any serious discussion or consideration by the Labor Party.
Speaking at the Lakemba Mosque in Sydney on 8 August at celebrations marking the end of Ramadan Carr reportedlystated:
I've been to Ramallah, I've spoken to the Palestinian leadership, and we support their aspirations to have a Palestinian state in the context of a Middle East of peace. And that means respect for the right of Israel to exist. But we want that Palestinian state to exist, in the context of a peace in the Middle East, and that's why we say, unequivocally, all settlements on Palestinian land are illegal under international law and should cease. That is the position, of Kevin Rudd, the position of the Federal Labor Government, and we don't make apologies for it.
Carr's shock announcement has brought forth sharp criticism from peak Jewish organisations in Australia including the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) and the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) - as well as a blistering attack by Opposition Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop.
Ms Bishop has released correspondence disclosing that Senator Carr did not seek any advice from the International Law Office within the Attorney General's Department - relying instead only on legal advice supplied by his own Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) - before committing Prime Minister Rudd and the Labor Party to the policy enunciated at the Lakemba Mosque.
DFAT legal advice had only looked at the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and their applicability in the West Bank.It had failed to consider the relevance and applicability of article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter which preserves the right of Jews to live in the West Bank conferred on them by the Mandate.
If you only consider half the law - you can only provide the Minister with half an answer that can turn out to be totally unreliable - as has happened in this case.
DFAT, Senator Carr, Prime Minister Rudd and the Labor Party were obviously unaware of a letter signed on 22 July by more than 1000 prominent international lawyers and politicians addressed to Baroness Catherine Ashton - High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission (EC).
In their letter the signatories asserted that Jews are legally entitled to live in the West Bank and questioned the relevance and the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to Israel's occupation of the West Bank.
The signatories stated:
The long-held view of the EU as to the illegality of Israel's settlements is a misreading of the relevant provisions of international law, and specifically Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is neither relevant to the unique circumstances of Israel's status in the area, nor was it ever applicable, or intended to apply to Israel's circumstances in Judea and Samaria (The West Bank - ed)
Senator Carr needs to explain how he could "unequivocally " commit the Labor Party to a policy based on the Fourth Geneva Convention when its applicability had been thrown into grave doubt by the Ashton letter - and especially as no binding legal decision exists that supports the DFAT advice given to Carr.
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