Anthony Albanese
Anthony Albanese says civilians cannot be allowed to suffer in Israel's bid to defeat Hamas. Image by Brent Lewin/AAP PHOTOS
  • unrest, conflicts and war

Australia votes in favour of Gaza ceasefire at UN

Kat Wong December 13, 2023

Australia has voted in favour of a UN resolution demanding a ceasefire in Gaza, hours after the prime minister called for a “sustainable ceasefire” with his Canadian and New Zealand counterparts.

The 193-member United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday (AEDT) passed a resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza with 153 members in favour, 10 against – including the United States and Israel – and 23 abstaining.

Australia has historically abstained or voted in lockstep with the US on resolutions relating to Israel, but Wednesday’s vote represents a rare break.

Australia’s UN representative James Larsen said the nation was “gravely concerned” about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“Human suffering is widespread and unacceptable,” he said.

“This must not continue.”

However, he said the resolution should have gone further to unequivocally condemn Hamas as the perpetrator of the attack that precipitated the crisis.

High Schoolers For Palestine demonstration in Sydney.
 Pro-Palestine rallies have called for a ceasefire in Gaza. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS 

A similar resolution proposed in October called for a humanitarian “truce” with 120 countries voting in favour, but Australia chose to abstain because it did not mention Hamas.

More than 18,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, many more have been pushed to starvation, and most of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been driven from their homes as Israel’s bombing campaign stretches into its third month.

Pro-Palestine rallies across the world have called for a ceasefire.

A joint statement by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Luxon and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed support for “urgent international efforts towards a sustainable ceasefire”.

“We remain deeply concerned by the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and ongoing risks,” they said.

“The price of defeating Hamas cannot be the continuous suffering of all Palestinian civilians.”

However, a ceasefire “cannot be one-sided” and Hamas must release all hostages, stop using Palestinian civilians as human shields and lay down its arms.

“There is no role for Hamas in the future governance of Gaza,” they said.

The three leaders reaffirmed Israel’s right to self defence and prefaced their ceasefire calls with a condemnation of Hamas, whose October 7 invasion killed 1200 Israelis, took more than 200 hostages and sparked the latest upsurge in violence in a long history of conflict.

The Australian and Canadian governments consider Hamas a terrorist organisation while New Zealand has designated the entity’s military wing a terrorist group.

They also affirmed support for a two-state solution and Palestinians’ right to self-determination, specifically opposing “the forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, the re-occupation of Gaza, any reduction in territory, and any use of siege or blockade”.

The three leaders condemned rising anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong welcomed the UN resolution as a “next step towards a sustainable ceasefire”.

“We think it’s important that very close allies and like-minded countries speak together in support of the position we’ve articulated,” she told reporters in Adelaide.

Foreign Affairs  Minister Penny Wong
 Penny Wong is expected to visit Israel and other Middle East countries in January. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

Eight of Australia’s biggest humanitarian agencies welcomed the statement and resolution, as Oxfam Australia chief executive Lyn Morgain urged the prime minister to “do all in his power to ensure this ceasefire happens, and that these issues aren’t forgotten once the fighting ends”.

Australia, Canada and New Zealand must do this by campaigning for the US to vote for a ceasefire at the Security Council, where – unlike the General Assembly – the resolution would be legally binding, Australian Palestine Advocacy Network president Nasser Mashni said.

This comes as opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham leads a cross-party delegation to Israel.

“There is no point … in a premature situation that would enable Hamas to rearm, to regroup, and ultimately pose the threat of conducting the same type of terrorist atrocities as they did on the seventh of October,” he told Sky News.

Israel’s ambassador Amir Maimon said it was “difficult to understand” how Australia could support Israel’s right to self-defence while voting for a ceasefire that would “embolden Hamas” to resume attacks.

Senator Wong is expected to visit Israel and other Middle East countries in January.