People participate in a pro-Palestine protest in Sydney.
Protesters took to the streets in support of Palestinian people at rallies in Sydney and Melbourne. Image by Steven Saphore/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Demilitarisation a key to Palestine statehood: Albanese

Callum Godde February 4, 2024

Palestinian statehood could hinge on Hamas-controlled Gaza destroying its weapons, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says.

A two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has long been floated as a path to peace in the region, is back in the spotlight following the October 7 attack by Hamas and Israel’s subsequent war on Gaza.

In a visit to Lebanon last week, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron flagged his country could not recognise a Palestinian state while Hamas remained in Gaza.

But the top diplomat reiterated the UK’s support for a two-state solution and urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “to start talking about the things a Palestinian state can be rather than the things it can’t be”.

Mr Albanese acknowledged an agreement on a two-state solution was only possible if Israel returned to the negotiating table.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
 Anthony Albanese Part says a two-state solution could entail Hamas relinquishing its weapons. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS 

“We need to de-escalate,” he told ABC TV on Sunday.

“Part of that (two-state solution) might mean, for example, any existence of a Palestinian state would be one which was a demilitarised state as well. Those are the sort of issues that need to be on the table.

“The United States, I know, is looking at these issues, as is the United Kingdom. Australia and certainly my government has a position of support for two states.”

The US and Britain have launched another round of strikes against 36 Iran-backed Houthi targets across 13 locations in Yemen, in retaliation to attacks on shipping and naval vessels in the Red Sea.

Three US troops were killed and at least 34 wounded in a drone attack by Iran-backed militants in Jordan near the Syrian border on January 28.

Defence Minister Richard Marles confirmed the latest strikes targeted sites linked with the Houthis’ deeply buried weapons storage facilities, missile systems and launchers, air defence systems and radars.

“We remain committed to protecting freedom of navigation and international commerce and holding the Houthis accountable for their illegal and unjustifiable attacks on commercial shipping and naval vessels,” he said.

Mr Albanese described the attacks as “proportionate”, declaring the US had got its response right and was playing a “responsible” role in the region.

“You can’t have the sort of attacks that we’ve seen and see no response,” he said.

Greens leader Adam Bandt turned up the heat on the prime minister on Sunday when speaking at a pro-Palestine rally in Melbourne.

When federal parliament returns on Tuesday, the Greens will move motion to reverse parliament’s support of Israel’s invasion of Gaza amid the rising death toll.

“A government subject to orders from the International Court of Justice to stop genocide also should be subject to pressure and sanctions from the Australian government,” Mr Bandt told the crowd in Melbourne.

A pro-Palestine rally was also held in Sydney on Sunday afternoon.

Members of the of Jewish community rally in Melbourne.
 Members of Melbourne’s Jewish community rallied on Sunday in support of the families of hostages. Image by HANDOUT/United with Israel 

Earlier on Sunday, members of Melbourne’s Jewish community gathered at Caulfield Park in solidarity with families of the remaining hostages in Gaza.

“We call on the Israeli government, governments of the world, and all people who respect life and peace, to support the safe and immediate return of the hostages,” event organiser spokesperson Nirit Eylon said in a statement.

More than 1200 Israelis were killed and up to 240 taken hostage in the October 7 attack on southern Israel by Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group by the Australian government.

Israel’s subsequent bombardment, blockade and ground invasion has left more than 27,000 Palestinians dead and another 66,000 wounded, according to the latest figures from Gaza’s Hamas-led health ministry.