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Gillard set to reject Kevin Rudd on Palestine

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Australia is almost certain to vote against a Palestinian state next month, despite an apparent push by Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd for Canberra to abstain from any such vote.

Leaders of the Jewish community reacted angrily yesterday to a report that Mr Rudd had written to Julia Gillard recommending that Australia abstain from the vote at the UN.

The diplomatic row came as Victorian Labor leader Daniel Andrews joined the Baillieu government’s attacks on the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which led to 19 arrests in Melbourne last month when protesters targeted the Max Brenner chocolate store.

Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien confirmed that the state government had written to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission to investigate whether the protesters should be prosecuted under section 45D of the Competition and Consumer Act covering secondary boycotts.

The ACCC declined to comment. Campaign Against Israeli Apartheid spokeswoman Vashti Kenway said the next BDS protest in Melbourne was planned for September 9.

The Prime Minister is expected in coming days to confirm to Jewish leaders Australia’s traditional support for Israel at the UN. “I think Rudd will busily back off all of that now,” said one Jewish community leader. “The PM is very firm about opposing the (UN) resolution.”

Ms Gillard would not comment on whether Mr Rudd had written to her urging Australia to abstain. “At this time, no such resolution has hit the deck,” she said.

“There isn’t a resolution available for people to read or respond to. If such a resolution does hit the deck, then in deciding how Australia will vote, we will bring our very long-standing principles about questions in the Middle East. That is, we are long-standing supporters of a two-state solution.

“We are long-standing supporters of Israel’s right to exist behind secure borders and we have said for a very long time this question is only going to be resolved by people sitting around a table and negotiating it to resolution.”

Jewish leaders had a series of meeting with Mr Rudd two months ago and say they were left with the firm impression Australia would oppose any resolution.

Palestinian negotiators are claiming at least 122 of the 193 countries in the UN General Assembly will support the motion. Israel is concentrating on trying to win as many European votes as possible — Britain and France have suggested they may support the Palestinian motion.


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