The Sydney Morning Herald reports: Julia Gillard has been forced to abandon her personal opposition to Palestinians winning a seat in the United Nations – despite threatening to exercise a prime ministerial veto and demand Australia reject the bid.
The backdown headed off an ugly stoush in Labor caucus that threatened to deliver a fresh blow to Ms Gillard’s political authority over backbench demands Australia recognise Palestine as just one step short of a fully fledged nation.
Israel is fiercely opposed to the move – expected to be put in a formal resolution on Thursday in New York – and Ms Gillard had insisted to cabinet colleagues that Australia would also vote against it.
Ms Gillard had previously nominated support for Israel as a key foreign policy priority and last year overruled former foreign minister Kevin Rudd, directing Australia reject Palestinian membership of the UN cultural body, UNESCO.
But during a heated cabinet debate on Monday night, at least 10 ministers, including several from the Right faction, warned Ms Gillard she faced a caucus revolt should Australia vote against Palestinians winning an equivalent standing to the Vatican in the General Assembly.
Labor’s longest-serving foreign minister, Gareth Evans, also made a direct intervention over the issue, travelling to Canberra on Monday to warn MPs that Australia would be “on the wrong side of history” by opposing the Palestinian bid and would lose credibility for its hard-won UN Security Council seat. [Continue reading…]