Foreign Minister Penny Wong meets Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong meets her Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi. Image by HANDOUT/DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE
  • politics

Wong sounds alarm over civilian deaths and ‘just’ peace

January 17, 2024

As the number of Palestinians being killed in Gaza continues to climb, Penny Wong has urged genuine steps towards peace and security.

The foreign minister was “deeply moved” by her meetings with the Israeli families of hostages taken in the October 7 Hamas attack as part of a week-long visit to the Middle East.

“I greatly admire the strength they continue to show,” she wrote on social media platform X.

“In every engagement I have with relevant parties, I will use Australia’s voice to call for the immediate, unconditional and safe return of their loved ones.”

In a meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Senator Wong shared the “strong concerns the Australian people have about the civilian death toll” in Gaza.

Senator Wong began her visit to the region with a stop in Jordan on Tuesday, where she met Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, King Abdullah II and United Nations senior humanitarian co-ordinator Sigrid Kaag.

“I don’t think Australia can come to the region demanding specific assurances,” she told reporters in Jordan.

“Our view is that peace ultimately will come if there is genuine progress towards peace and security for Israel and for the Palestinian people and their legitimate aspirations for statehood.”

Bombing of Gaza.
 Penny Wong has shared Australia’s concerns about the “dire” humanitarian situation in Gaza. Image by EPA PHOTO 

Jordan is one of the few Arab countries to have signed a peace agreement with Israel, as the nation has a large Palestinian population who were displaced from their homes when the Israeli state was created.

Hearings have been held at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) after South Africa accused Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

Despite repeated calls from advocacy groups and Greens senators including Mehreen Faruqi and Jordon Steele John, Australia has not publicly supported the case against Israel.

Senator Wong said Australia respected the independence of the ICJ and its role in upholding international law but that “does not mean we accept the premise of South Africa’s case”.

“We will continue to work for a just and enduring peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” she said.

Ed Husic
 “Innocent Palestinians have paid a high price for the barbarity of Hamas,” Ed Husic says. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese noted Australia was not a participant in the case against Israel but said “that doesn’t mean we agree with some of the assumptions they have in the South African case at all”.

Outspoken cabinet minister Ed Husic noted he was not responsible for Australia’s decisions regarding the ICJ but said he wanted to “see Israeli families and Palestinian families live in peace, grow old and do so safely”.

“Being able to encourage peace to emerge in that part of the world is not just a priority for them but I think the global community has an expectation around that,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“Innocent Palestinians have paid a high price for the barbarity of Hamas.”

Senator Wong announced an extra $21.5 million in humanitarian aid for Palestinians, including $4 million to the Red Cross and Red Crescent emergency medical services, $6 million to the UN’s Relief and Works Agency and $11.5 million to refugee programs in Lebanon and Jordan.

The foreign minister is expected to visit a Holocaust remembrance centre on Wednesday and meet with other top Israeli politicians in Jerusalem before she heads to the West Bank to speak with communities affected by settler violence.