‘Roll up your sleeves’: Wong must demand Hamas’ elimination, says Sharma

Save articles for later

Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong should use her upcoming trip to the Middle East to demand the elimination of Hamas and secure a role for Australia in brokering a post-war political settlement in Gaza, according to former Australian ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma.

The former Wentworth MP, who was sworn in as a Liberal senator for NSW last week, said Wong’s planned mid-January trip to Israel was “overdue” and that it was unfortunate she had not visited the Middle East in the 18 months since Labor took office.

Incoming NSW Liberal senator Dave Sharma says it is not “wishful thinking” for Hamas to be eliminated as a powerful force in the occupied Palestinian territories.Credit: Anna Kucera

“I think she needs to express quite clearly Australia’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself, and that extends to the elimination of Hamas as a political and military actor,” Sharma said in an interview with this masthead.

“I don’t see a sustainable resolution to this conflict unless and until Hamas is removed from political power in Gaza.

“That’s certainly the view of Israel’s government and across the political spectrum in Israel.”

Sharma, who served as Australia’s top representative in Israel from 2013 to 2017, said Wong should use meetings with officials from neighbouring Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt and Jordan to identify how to fill the political vacuum that would be left by the removal of Hamas in Gaza.

The policy of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese regarding post-war Gaza aligns with that of US President Joe Biden.Credit: Christopher Jue

“The government has been armchair commentators, but this is not about giving press conferences from Adelaide, it’s about rolling up your sleeves and getting involved,” he said.

Asked about the reception Wong can expect in Israel, Sharma said: “Israel counts Australia as a close friend and partner so they will welcome the visit.”

But he added: “I don’t think this government is particularly highly regarded in Israel. The fact Netanyahu took several weeks before he accepted Albanese’s call tells you something about the warmth, or lack of it, in the relationship.”

Netanyahu and Albanese had their first telephone call since the October 7 attacks, which claimed the lives of 1200 people in Israel, a little over three weeks after Hamas’s shock incursion.

Sharma said Israel had found the Labor government’s changes to official language on the “occupied Palestinian territories” and West Jerusalem as “gratuitous and unnecessary”.

While Australia is not a lead player in the Israel-Palestine conflict, Sharma said it could serve as an “important supporting actor” given its historic support of Israel and strong relations with other Middle Eastern nations.

Sharma said he disagreed with Izzat Salah Abdulhadi, the head of the general delegation of Palestine to Australia, that it was “wishful thinking” to believe Hamas could be eliminated as a result of the war.

Abdulhadi noted in an interview with this masthead that Hamas is also popular in the West Bank and has deep roots in the Palestinian community.

“The Islamic State has basically been eliminated and abolished; Nazi Germany was eliminated and abolished,” Sharma said.

“I think it’s entirely feasible to militarily defeat Hamas and remove them as a significant political actor.”

While some fighters will remain loyal to Hamas, he said: “The vast majority of Palestinians want to be left in peace and get on with their lives.”

Wong told Senate estimates hearings in late October the political process following the war “will need to see all sides respect the right of the other to exist, and it must see the removal of the terrorist group Hamas”.

She also wrote in The Guardian that a durable peace will “require the dismantling of Hamas”.

Wong told parliament last week that the government supports the Biden administration’s principles for a post-war settlement “including no forcible displacement of Palestinians or reduction in territory and no use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism”.

Sharma predicted that Israel’s current push into Khan Yunis, in southern Israel, will be its last “high tempo” military operation in the war because it was aware that the high number of civilian casualties in Gaza was draining international support.

Sharma said the best-case scenario after the war was that the secular Palestinian Authority governs Gaza with security assistance from neighbouring countries such as Egypt.

‘I don’t think [Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu] has the political credibility or authority to pronounce definitively on this issue.’

Netanyahu has ruled out the Palestinian Authority running Gaza, saying it fuels hatred of Israel through its school syllabus in the West Bank and by paying stipends to the families of Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

“I think Netanyahu is wrong on this and I don’t think he has the political credibility or authority to pronounce definitively on this issue on behalf of Israel,” Sharma said.

He added that he expected Netanyahu to eventually be held politically accountable for the “massive intelligence failure” that led to the October 7 attacks.

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.

Most Viewed in Politics

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article