There seem to be several lessons from the recent politics around this episode in the Australian public sphere.
It has demonstrated that the so-called official leadership of the Australian Jewish Community (the “Lobby”) overplayed its hand in trying to influence foreign policy decisions with an undercurrent of murky political wheeling dealing that revolves around support for one party or another by a small and influential single-interest lobby. It also demonstrated that even icons such as Bob Hawke, a strong Zionist, understand the reality of international politics, and Gillard seemed like an amateur.
It resulting in an ugly brawl in government in which the “interests of Israel” were seemingly rebuffed by those concerned for Australia’s own independent foreign policy. How the Lobby is to be regarded or treated in the future in Canberra is a matter for speculation, but it is an opportunity for considered viewpoints to be taken more seriously. Even if the coalition wins an election, it is likely that the same tensions will surface–there are also Liberals who share the same views about Palestine as “pro-Palestine” Labor or Green members.
Second, for those on the progressive side of politics, hopes such as the full-right of return or one state which result in thousands of aspirational words may not get international support. What the international community can broker may well be the solution that the ‘left’ needs to deal with in supporting the emergence of a state–actually two states– with strong, secular civil societies that can work out their relationships non-violently (whether in a federation or weak-border partnership, or any one of a number of models that are proposed). It is a fantasy to think that Israel can be wished out of the equation in finding a solution, or that the ideology of “anti-normalization” that has become a mantra in some quarters, puts Israel out of the question as a partner to conflict resolution. The reality is that Israel has to be dealt with and in one shape or other, it will continue to be a centre of Jewish life living with, and a neighbour to Palestinians.
Third, recognition of Palestinian observer status means a change for progressives from the current narrow focus of discourse and action, usually around 1) the evils of the occupation 2) Palestinian rights 3) BDS campaigns . This is not student politics. It may mean working with Canberra much more effectively to develop credible alternatives for Palestinian governance post-occupation that can be raised in influential international forums and directly, with Palestinians of all political shades, difficult as this may be. The development of positive alternatives coming from democracies is something which right-wing Israelis and their diaspora supporters will find increasingly difficult to white ant because all they will have to argue for is a control regime with apartheid-like features that benefits one group over another, rather than democratic process.