Having worked in the foreign affairs, defence and trade area of this parliament for most of my time here, I’m acutely aware of how our statements and actions can influence the attitudes and the trust of parties that we seek to treat as friends and allies and can also give succour and encouragement to those with whom we fundamentally disagree in terms of their world view.
Senator FAWCETT (South Australia) (16:14): I also rise to speak on this urgency motion regarding Israel. It’s important to note that, whilst two sides here can trade barbs over the domestic politics of it, there are substantial issues that go to our foreign affairs. Having worked in the foreign affairs, defence and trade area of this parliament for most of my time here, I’m acutely aware of how our statements and actions can influence the attitudes and the trust of parties that we seek to treat as friends and allies and can also give succour and encouragement to those with whom we fundamentally disagree in terms of their world view.
Those opposite have made comments that this is an exercise in crass domestic politics, but I would just like to quote some of the comments from Israel’s Prime Minister, Prime Minister Lapid, who said:
In light of the way in which this decision was made in Australia, as a hasty response to an incorrect report in the media, we can only hope that the Australian government manages other matters more seriously and professionally.
It has been some time since Australia’s ambassador in Israel has been summoned for a dressing-down in that country. The Israeli foreign minister registered Israel’s ‘deep disappointment in the face of the Australian government’s decision resulting from a short-sighted political consideration’. I will finish on this point by noting that both the Prime Minister and the foreign minister have conceded that the announcement was mishandled.
I would now like to go more to the substance of the issue, because I think it’s really important that we see what is happening in the world, particularly in the Middle East, and that we seize the opportunities that are before us. If we go right back to the creation of Israel, at the end of the war that was launched upon the fledgling state, an armistice was agreed between Jordan and Israel that recognised that the city of Jerusalem was in two parts: the west, controlled by Israel, and the east, controlled by Jordan. When again the Arab states attacked Israel in 1967, at the end of that war, Israel had taken over East Jerusalem as well as the West Bank and the Golan Heights. So there was a period, and that has continued, of international disquiet over the status of those lands. But West Jerusalem itself was never in contention, even back then, and even for the people who now say that we should be going back to the pre-1967 boundaries, West Jerusalem is very much the territory that Israel has always controlled and will continue to control.
Nations have for some time repeated the line, which we hear frequently and have heard today, that until there is a final settlement peace cannot exist. But the reality on the ground in the Middle East is different and it’s changing. We see between Morocco, the UAE and Bahrain an ongoing acceptance of and relationship with Israel from Morocco and a new recognition of sovereignty and of the establishment of diplomatic norms between an increasing number of Arab nations either overtly, such as in the Abraham Accords, or through implied or tacit cooperation from states that are now allowing overflight to Israeli airline El Al, which was never allowed in the past.
So, despite comments made by some nations and some people—Senator Wong in fact made the comment—that lasting peace is not possible until there is a final settlement, we are seeing that nations in the Middle East are increasingly saying, ‘We want to look forward to how we can collaborate with Israel for the opportunities for all our people,’ and lasting agreements and recognition of Israel’s sovereignty and right to exist are being established, and cooperative relationships in the areas of security, commerce, sport and other things are being established. To provide comfort to the recalcitrants within the Palestinian movement who said, both in 2000 under President Clinton and in 2008 when Prime Minister Olmert and Mr Abbas met and the Palestinians just rejected out of hand the offers of peace and haven’t in a meaningful way returned to negotiations, anything that supports that view of nonengagement with Israel will only work to extend the conflict. (Time expired)