Speech on Israel at Parliament House

Speech given in Federation Chamber, 22 October 2015

 

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

Shadow Attorney-General

Shadow Minister for the Arts

Member for Isaacs

 

Israel

22 October 2015

Federation Chamber

We are fast approaching the twentieth anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. Rabin was a true warrior for Israel and visionary for peace, and his death at the hands of a Jewish extremist sent shockwaves through Israel and through the region. The echoes of those gunshots reverberated around the world, touching many here in Australia too, because the ties between Australia and Israel and deep and enduring.

I am always proud to remember that it was Foreign Minister Doc Evatt, one of the intellectual luminaries of the Labor Party, who was the first to vote in the General Assembly in favor of the establishment of Israel under United Nations Resolution 181.

And in 1949 the Chifley Government ensured that Australia was among the first nations to formally recognise the new-born State of Israel.

It was Israeli politician and diplomat Abba Eban, who in acknowledging the Australian Government’s contribution to the recognition of Israel declared that “the warmth and eloquence with which you welcomed Israel into the family of nations have earned for you the undying gratitude of our people.”

The enduring friendship that our nation has built with the State of Israel has only grown stronger in the 67 years since its creation.

Both of our nations are founded in common democratic values, and both of our nations aspire to build nations founded in justice, prosperity and peace.

And tragically, both of our nations have also suffered the evils of terrorism, although for Israel the threat is on an altogether different scale to that experienced here.

The latest spasm of violence in Israel is appalling to see, with a tragic loss of life on both sides of the conflict.

For those who have sought to somehow justify the violence, let me say that whatever the grievances of the Palestinians, indiscriminate murder will never be a legitimate form of political protest. It is terrorism, and it is abhorrent.

This latest violence reinforces that we must continue to support a lasting resolution of the conflict, based on the right of Israel to live in peace within secure borders, internationally recognised and agreed by the parties, and on the realisation of the right of the Palestinian people to also live in peace and security within their own State of Palestine, a state based on the 1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps. There is no other course.

But while there is now wide spread support for the establishment of a State for Palestine, under terms negotiated by the parties, there is a loud and I fear growing chorus opposed to very existence of the State of Israel.

It is imperative that the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and other Palestinian factions cease all public statements and incitement by their officials and in their media that promote political violence or that are otherwise inimical to the achievement of a peaceful, two-state resolution of the conflict. Hamas, which is a listed terrorist organisation under Australian law, must renounce its genocidal Charter, commit to re-establishing the rule of law, and end summary executions and the persecution of minorities, including in relation to sexual orientation.

And Israeli leaders too must refrain from rhetoric that seeks to de-legitimise the Palestinians and their aspirations to nationhood.

Paul Keating was Prime Minister at the time of Rabin’s assassination, and he issued a statement which included the following words, as true today as they were back in 1995:

“Yitzhak Rabin's vision, strength and commitment were instrumental to
achieving the breakthrough in the peace process. His death is a tragedy for
Israel, the Middle East and the world.

The best way the world can honour Mr Rabin is to push ahead with the work
he began. For Australia's part, we will continue to give our full support to the
peace process. Our support for Israel's right to exist in security and safety will
remain a guiding principle of our policy.”

I am travelling to Israel this Saturday, to spend ten days there meeting with officials from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and to participate in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Be’er Sheva Dialogue. I will also be visiting with and offering my support to friends and family who live there.

And I go bearing a message of support from my parliamentary colleagues as well, from all sides of politics. Because in what is often a deeply divided parliament, support for the State of Israel, and for the peace process in which she is engaged with the Palestinian people, continues to be a matter of rock-solid, bipartisan agreement.