Albanese must deliver a grave message of warning to Biden

Oct 25, 2023
Hiroshima, Japan. 20th May, 2023. U.S. President Joe Biden (R) meets with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on the sidelines of the G7 summit on Saturday May 20, 2023 in Hiroshima, Japan. Japan hosts The G7 summit in Hiroshima from 19-22 May. Photo Image: Alamy Australian PM Press Office/UPI/Alamy Live News

Prime Minister Albanese has an obligation to engage President Biden in a conversation on Gaza. Australia cannot and must not stay in lock step with Israel. If US support for Israel is written in concrete, no matter how Israel behaves, or what inhumanity it inflicts on an imprisoned people, it is Australia’s duty to deliver a message of dire warning to the US on what this will lead to.

On the surface, the Prime Minister’s visit to Washington, contains few challenges. The AUKUS deal is touted as the most significant. (Bizarre, especially for baby boomers or older Australians, most of whom will be dead before the then redundant submarines arrive). Of greater importance should be a conversation about war and what ‘winning it’ might look like. When Rishi Sunak, the British Prime Minister visited Netanyahu, he expressed the hope Israel would ‘win’ the war.

There are currently two wars being waged in the Middle East, both focused on the outcome of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians of the Gaza strip. The first and most shocking is military conflict. The second, less obvious, but far more significant in long-term outcomes, is the war for moral ascendancy upon which trust, respect, honour, and future alliances will be built. That Israel will win the first is guaranteed, it is backed and armed by the US and has its own nuclear arsenal. But it is far from guaranteed that it will win the second. Indeed, current indications are that it will lose this, the more important contest.

Prime Minister Albanese has an obligation to engage President Biden in this conversation. Australia cannot and must not stay in lock step with Israel, if US support for Israel is written in concrete, no matter how Israel behaves, or what inhumanity it inflicts on an imprisoned people.

There can be no sugar-coating the barbaric atrocities committed against Israeli civilians on 7th October. However, by continuing to prosecute the politics of the conflict through the question; “what do you expect Israel to do, what alternative does it have”, is to condemn barbarism on one side and excuse it on another. More than half the 2+ million Palestinians in Gaza have lived under a total blockade, in the most crowded and impoverished conditions on earth for their entire life. If it is right to ask; what is Israel supposed to do, is it not equally appropriate to ask, “what are the Gazans supposed to do?” Or equally, Palestinians on the West Bank, inclusive of East Jerusalem, have endured brutality and dehumanising activity from colonialist occupiers for decades, (dozens have been killed or arrested since October 7), is it not also appropriate to ask: “what are they supposed to do?”

There are no winners in war, only losers, as Afghanistan, Vietnam, Iraq, and the Gulf amply illustrate. Before engaging in war, the responder to a bloodied nose must ask, what do we envisage the landscape to be like post the conflict? The US and its allies clearly did not ask this question in Iraq or Afghanistan. Albanese needs to put pressure on Biden to make Israel answer this question, prior to giving unconditional support. Even then, support should be tempered by the likelihood, or not, of the stated outcome being a reality.

We know a power vacuum is the worst possible outcome. Killing the Palestinian equivalent of Osama Bin Laden is doable, but removing the reason for Hamas from a people given no hope, no future, no humanity is the task that Israel clearly has no stomach to undertake. But it is the task that Biden and Albanese should be committed to, and which they should talk about in Washington.

Does Israel think it is going to run Gaza indefinitely with military oversight when it completes its military ambitions, as it does the West Bank? Or does it think it can push 2+ million people across the border into Egypt, living in a huge Sinai situated artificial tent city with little hope, meaning, or future?

Albanese needs to tell Biden to tell Israel that if it genuinely wants peace for its people and respect in the international community it must choose between two options. Either it must immediately agree to and deliver a meaningful two-state solution with illegal Israeli settlers in Palestine provided the option of staying in Palestine or returning to Israel; or under UN supervision, the whole area must become integrated, walls and barriers must come down, and equal rights afforded to all regardless of religion, ethnicity, or culture. There is no other just alternative to these choices.

It is irresponsible and cowardly for Albanese or Biden to support the superior power with blooded nose, and not address the rapidly increasing injustices suffered by 5+ million people since 1948. The arrangements that have given rise to these injustices were made by US and European powers for reasons of their own self-interest; in the process they have failed to deliver or enforce an acceptable outcome for Palestinians. Australia was amongst the first to recognise Israel. Palestinians have been waiting 70 years.

Joe Biden and Anthony Albanese, you have plenty to talk about, that is if you are genuinely interested in peace with justice and if you seek to lead nations that aspire to civility. As history demonstrates ‘civilisation’, like love in personal affairs can never to be taken for granted, but should receive fresh commitment every day.

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