Josh Burns MP – spoke in support of Sharma’s motion praising the legacy of former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin on the 25th anniversary of his assassination

photo of Josh Burns MP
November 9, 2020

Elected leader of the opposition in 1992, Rabin took a big gamble. He ran on a platform of making peace with Israel’s enemies and he won, becoming Prime Minister and serving for over three years until his tragic death. In that time, he signed the landmark Oslo Accords with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a road map towards what he planned to be a historic and lasting peace with the Palestinians.

Full speech

Mr BURNS (Macnamara) (11:24): I rise to support the motion and commend the member for Wentworth on his fine words and his work in bringing this motion to the House. Between 1993 and 1995 the then chief rabbi of the Commonwealth, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, wrote to the then Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, outlining his concerns of divisions within Israel about the peace plan that the Prime Minister was putting forward. The rabbi was worried about the rising tensions within Israeli society. He commented that he didn’t receive a response at the time. However, on 4 November 1995, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks heard that the Prime Minister had been assassinated at a peace rally. He immediately flew and attended the funeral in Jerusalem. On returning to London the next day, Rabbi Sacks visited the then Israeli ambassador to tell him about the funeral. On a post on his Facebook only last week, Rabbi Sacks said:

… the ambassador handed me an envelope. “This has just arrived for you in the diplomatic bag.” It was Yitzhak Rabin’s reply to my letter—perhaps one of the last letters he wrote.

In his long and detailed and heartfelt response, Rabin wrote to the rabbi:

Yet I know that there is no long-term answer to our security problems, and to our co-existence with our neighbours, other than peace. For the sake of our children and grandchildren we cannot forfeit this historic opportunity.

Sadly, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks passed away on Saturday morning. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge a giant not just of the rabbinical world but of Britain, the UK and the wider world. He was a man of giant intellect and of a great moral compass. In this place I mark Australia’s thanks for all of his work and his dedication to a better and more peaceful world.

It was 25 years ago last week that Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated. As the member for Wentworth correctly outlined, these were events that shocked Israel, shocked the Jewish people, shocked Australia and shocked the world. As this motion notes, Prime Minister Paul Keating moved a condolence motion in this House on 23 November 1995, which was seconded by then opposition leader John Howard and carried with bipartisan support. Prime Minister Keating also flew to Israel and attended Prime Minister Rabin’s funeral, an act that reflected not just Australia’s and Israel’s deep friendship at the time but Australia’s genuine sadness and admiration of the character of Yitzhak Rabin. As Prime Minister Keating said to this House:

Yitzhak Rabin was a remarkable individual.

…   …   …

… Mr Rabin came to the view cautiously—almost reluctantly, but I believe irresistibly—that the cause to which he had committed his life, that is Israel’s survival and security, was now best served by a sustained effort to negotiate a settlement with the Palestinians.

This did not represent any change in his fundamental beliefs. But he had the imagination and the courage to recognise that military superiority alone could not deliver lasting security for Israel.

Yitzhak Rabin was indeed remarkable. He was one of Israel’s most decorated military generals, serving as Israel’s chief of operations during the 1948 war of independence and rising to Chief of the General Staff of the Israeli defence forces during the Six-Day War. When he entered politics, joining and quickly leading the Israeli Labor Party, he was a hard-headed defence hero. Whilst his first stint as Prime Minister in the 1970s ended after just three years, with the Labor government losing to the conservative Likud party for the first time, he would go on to serve as defence minister in the subsequent unity governments of Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres.

Elected leader of the opposition in 1992, Rabin took a big gamble. He ran on a platform of making peace with Israel’s enemies and he won, becoming Prime Minister and serving for over three years until his tragic death. In that time, he signed the landmark Oslo Accords with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a road map towards what he planned to be a historic and lasting peace with the Palestinians. It saw them share the Nobel Peace Prize with Shimon Peres. He also signed a peace treaty with Jordan, another long-term enemy of Israel, which created a peace which still thankfully holds today. Rabin was a giant. He fought and stood against not just those who opposed him but those who were on his side. May his memory be a blessing.

Link to parliamentary Hansard

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