I fully support the Labor government and the Minister for Foreign Affairs in their decision to rescind the Morrison government’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and decision to move the embassy there. It was insulting to our Arab colleagues, it reduced the chances of there being a two-state solution, it implied a less than even-handed approach to peace in the Middle East and it reduced us to being little more than a vassal state of a Trumpian America.
Dr FREELANDER (Macarthur) (12:36): There’s been a Jewish community in Australia since the very first days of European settlement, and I’m very proud that I’m descended from a Jewish community that came here in convict days. It’s very important to me that our relationship with Israel is maintained on a positive note and that we continue to support Israel not just in its existence but in its growth as a 21st-century democracy. So I believe in the State of Israel.
However, those opposite would seek to undermine our relationship with the State of Israel by their unbelievably cynical approach to the issue of Jerusalem. It’s worth noting a little bit of history. The State of Israel was first proclaimed by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, in May 1948. Australia recognised the State of Israel in January 1949 and our embassy in Israel has been in Tel Aviv from that time. The Israeli embassy was established in Canberra at the same time—1949.
Those opposite are correct when they say that Jerusalem has incredible significance. It has incredible significance to Islam, to Christianity and to the Jewish people—and any dealing with the issue of Jerusalem has to take that into account. The way in which this has been politicised, initially by the Morrison government and, more recently, by those opposite—who can’t even make up their mind and won’t even give an opinion about what should happen to Australia’s embassy in Israel—is nothing short of astounding. They are approaching issues in a cynical, political, manipulative and inappropriate way.
I fully support the Labor government and the Minister for Foreign Affairs in their decision to rescind the Morrison government’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and decision to move the embassy there. It was insulting to our Arab colleagues, it reduced the chances of there being a two-state solution, it implied a less than even-handed approach to peace in the Middle East and it reduced us to being little more than a vassal state of a Trumpian America. We should be ashamed of what happened, not celebrating it. Penny Wong and the Australia Labor government have made the right decision, there is no question. Labor has supported the State of Israel since the founding of the state and the initial appointment by Doc Evatt as the head of the UN Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question. Every opposition leader and Prime Minister from every Labor opposition and government ever since has supported the State of Israel. That is how it should be. That’s what I believe in. I believe in a decent, even handed approach. I believe in the hope of eventual peace. The only realistic prospect of that is with a two-state solution.
Nothing makes me more disgusted with the cynical approach of the previous government than this issue. I believe, as Bob Hawke says, that, when the bell tolls for Israel, it tolls for all of us. Israel is an outstanding liberal democracy in the Middle East. They have at the present time a very conservative government and one that I don’t always agree with, but I believe in the State of Israel. The only way that we as a government should be dealing with that is with an even handed approach. Even the Lowy Institute notes that the actions of the previous government, the Morrison government, were totally wrong and totally cynical.