At the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, Australia will abstain from a vote on a resolution to give Palestine observer status at the UN.
[Prime Minister] Ms Gillard had wanted Australia to join the United States, Israel, Canada and a handful of smaller nations in voting no but faced stiff resistance led by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bob Carr, and supported by MPs from the Left and Right factions, most notably the usually pro-Israel NSW Right.
During a heated cabinet meeting on Monday night, only two ministers backed Ms Gillard while 10 argued for a abstention or a yes vote.
Ms Gillard insisted on a no vote and cabinet had no choice but to back her. But she was warned subsequently by factional bosses the Right would not be supporting her in the caucus on Tuesday morning when MPs were set to vote on a motion to back Palestine.
Behind the scenes, the former prime minister Bob Hawke and the former foreign minister Gareth Evans were agitating among the backbench against Ms Gillard’s position.
Ms Gillard agreed to an abstention just before caucus met, avoiding a defeat.
… Senator Carr is a founder of the group, Labor friends of Israel. One of his colleagues said Senator Carr believes that “as a friend of Israel, at times you’ve got to save it from itself”.
The resolution is expected to pass easily. France, Spain and a raft of other European countries will likely vote in favour. Britain may vote yes, if the Palestinians agree not to approach the International Criminal Court to accuse Israel of war crimes.
This may be a largely symbolic vote of dubious value to Palestine, but at least some of Israel’s friends are starting to question whether supporting Israel always means doing what Netanyahu wants.