Foreign Minister Wong recently returned from a visit to Jordan, Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the United Arab Emirates. She visited a Palestinian refugee camp, met with the families of Israeli hostages held by Hamas attacks and Palestinians affected by Israeli settler violence, and met with official representatives from across the region, the United Nations and NGOs.

It is clear from the Foreign Minister’s engagements Australia has a respected voice, even if we have never been a central player in the Middle East.

We are using that voice to advocate for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and a pathway out of this conflict. Foreign Minister Wong made clear Australia’s view that achieving peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians requires a two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state. The status quo is failing everyone.

We are using our voice to express Australia’s serious concern about the civilian death toll and dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. Foreign Minister Wong emphasised that international law must be upheld – and that civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected.

We are using our voice to advocate for the immediate and unconditional release of hostages by Hamas, and to condemn the October 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas. Foreign Minister Wong expressed our concern for hostages directly to families when she met with them.

We are using our voice to express our grave concern at indications Israel is planning a ground offensive into Rafah. About 1.5 million Palestinians are taking refuge in the area. With the humanitarian situation in Gaza already dire, the impacts on Palestinian civilians from a major military operation would be catastrophic. Our message to Israel is: do not go down this path.

Foreign Minister Wong also met with Palestinian victims of violence by Israeli settlers. She made clear to her counterparts that this violence must cease and perpetrators must be held accountable. We consistently affirm that settlements are illegal under international law and a major impediment to peace.

Australia is using our voice to advocate for urgent humanitarian assistance to reach Palestinians in Gaza in desperate need, and to address the protracted refugee crisis in the region. While in Jordan, Foreign Minister Wong announced an additional $21.5 million in humanitarian assistance, taking Australia’s total humanitarian contribution since this conflict began to $46.5 million.

The humanitarian crisis and the catastrophic consequences of regional escalation underlines why Australia is using our voice to advocate for parties to avoid the conflict spreading.

As demonstrated by our recent vote at the United Nations, Australia is part of the international diplomatic effort urging an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. We see that as a critical, urgent step on the path to a permanent ceasefire. Like any ceasefire, this can’t be one-sided. Hamas must cease its attacks, lay down its arms and release all hostages immediately.

Israelis and Palestinians want and deserve to live their lives in peace, security and dignity.

Seeing the impacts of the conflict close up underlined for Foreign Minister Wong the importance of remembering our common humanity, and how important it is that we safeguard peaceful dialogue in our community in Australia.