My considered view is that peace could be achieved relatively quickly if goodwill prevailed across the Middle East, but I fear that there are many obstacles to peace remaining, and the main obstacle is Palestinian intransience (sic)
Full motion and speech
Mr ROBERT (Fadden) (11:11): I move:
That this House:
(1) supports the right of Israel to defend its citizens against terrorist attacks by organisations or by individuals;
(2) calls on the Palestinian Authority to cease incitement of its population to attack Israel and Israelis;
(3) further calls on the Palestinian Authority to take seriously the task of educating its people on the options, process and potential for peace;
(4) urges the Palestinian Authority to abide by the Oslo Accords and specifically to cease attacking Israel in an unfounded manner in international forums;
(5) further urges the Israel and the Palestinian Authority to return to negotiations in good faith and without preconditions;
(6) acknowledges and affirms the Jewish connection to the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel; and
(7) condemns the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement as inherently anti-Semitic and calls on all Australian political parties and institutions to disavow it.
The road to peace for Israel is long and it’s hard and it shouldn’t be. Israel is the only free democracy in the Middle East. It’s the only country that guarantees, respects and lives by the great liberal democratic principles of freedom of speech, of expression of gathering, of protests and all the norms we take for granted. Israel is the light in, at times, a dark place. You would think that peace would flow seamlessly from this. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and there remains too much opposition and oppression against Israel, not only in parts of Australia but also across elements of the international community.
Accordingly, as the chairman of the Australian Parliamentary Israel Allies Caucus, I place this motion unequivocally before the House of Representatives of the Australian parliament to affirm that we in this parliament support the right of Israel to defend its citizens against terrorist attacks by organisations or by individuals. We call on the Palestinian Authority to cease incitement of its population to attack Israel and Israelis. We further call on the Palestinian Authority to take seriously the task of educating its people on the options, process and potential for peace. We urge the Palestinian Authority to abide by the Oslo accords and, specifically, to cease attacking Israel in an unfounded manner in international forums. We urge the Israeli and Palestinian Authorities to return to negotiations in good faith and without preconditions. We acknowledge and affirm the Jewish connection to the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel, we condemn unequivocally and unilaterally the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions movement as inherently anti-Semitic, and we call on all Australian political parties and institutions to disavow it.
My considered view is that peace could be achieved relatively quickly if goodwill prevailed across the Middle East, but I fear that there are many obstacles to peace remaining, and the main obstacle is Palestinian intransience, an intransience I have witnessed firsthand and can speak to with some authority. The last 17 years have seen numerous efforts at peace. It’s a matter of historical fact that in 2008 then Israeli PM Ehud Olmert made Palestinian Authority President Abbas a generous offer of a Palestinian state in all of Gaza and most of West Bank with land from inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders to compensate for the rest so that ,after the land swaps, the Palestinians would receive the equivalent of 100 per cent of West Bank. There was to be a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, shared sovereignty over the city’s holy sites, and compensation for Palestinian refugees and their descendants with a very limited right for some of them to settle in Israel. As Abbas has recently confirmed, he rejected this offer out of hand. This was a far more generous offer than the one in 2000-01 where, with the involvement of Bill Clinton, peace offers to the Palestinians were again refused without even a counter-offer. Instead, Yasser Arafat launched his Intifada which saw a wave of terrorism take the lives of over 1,000 Israelis, and was only ended by Israeli security measures including checkpoints and the security barrier.
Furthermore, in 2005 Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip as a continuance of the process of engagement. Since then, Palestinians in Gaza have fired more than 10,000 rockets and mortars into Israel and have used vast amounts of international aid to construct elaborate tunnels from Gaza into Israel to facilitate planned mass terrorist attacks on the Israeli community. Israel has been forced to fight three wars to temporarily stop the rockets and destroy the tunnels. If the Palestinian Authority believe this is a road to peace, they are sorely mistaken.
Following the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israeli Prime Minister, Israel’s effort for peace continued. In 2009, he instituted a 10-month total moratorium on the building of houses in the settlements. This would mean, of course, that young adults in settlements who wanted to move out of home were forced to move right away from their communities, from their families. It was, however, a confidence-building measure designed to encourage negotiations. Again, Abbas refused to talk for nine months and then only agreed in the last month to continue the moratorium.
In 2013 and 2014, Netanyahu yet again tried again with further confidence-building measure. He agreed to release in four quarterly instalments Palestinian prisoners who were in Israeli jails for murdering Israelis. Unfortunately, the talks did not prove fruitful. Martin Indyk, the US negotiator, said:
Netanyahu moved to the zone of possible agreement. I saw him sweating bullets to find a way to reach an agreement.
We tried to get Abu Mazen to the zone of possible agreement but we were surprised to learn he had shut down. We were ready to go beyond policy positions the U.S. had taken on the core issues to bridge the gaps and resolve it, and therefore there was something in it for him – and he didn’t answer us. Abbas [effectively] checked out of the talks in mid-February.
The talks ultimately failed when Abbas decided that he would instead seek a unity government with the terror organisation Hamas, something which is not acceptable to Israel and much of the international community. Netanyahu has continued on several occasions to re-affirm his support for a Palestinian state and offered to meet and negotiate anywhere, at any time, without pre-conditions. Abbas, unfortunately, has failed to take up the offer.
So the question has to be asked: why is there this intransigence by the Palestinian Authority? There are many reasons. Could it be that a peace deal would actually mean a genuine acceptance of Israel’s right to exist, including an undertaking that there would be no further claims against Israel and that the refugees and millions of their descendants—also regarded as refugees, under a definition unique only to Palestinians—could settle in the new Palestinian state but there would be no right of return to Israel?
What we as legislators have to accept is that governments have a responsibility to deliver peace, security and the basis for prosperity for their people. This is what this motion calls on the Palestinian Authority to do; it calls on them to responsibly govern. Since negotiations last broke down, in 2014, the Palestinians have now pursued a strategy of using various international organisations, from the UN down, to put pressure on Israel and have sought to gain recognition of their state from as many governments and bodies as possible. In this way, they hope to avoid having to make the compromise necessary for a genuine peace and to be awarded their state in a way that enables them to continue to make claims against Israel, including the right to return. This is recipe not for peace but for continuing conflict.
At the same time, the Palestinian Authority has continued to incite and encourage terrorism against Israel. This has included the Palestinians calling for Israeli blood to be shed to defend the Temple Mount from non-existent Israeli plans to, apparently, change the status quo. This particular call led to the car and knife attacks which have killed over 40 Israelis since late 2015 and wounded hundreds of others. At other times, the incitement and encouragement is more general but just as pernicious—such as awarding generous lifetime pensions to terrorists captured by Israel or to the families of terrorists who are killed, and naming streets, facilities and even children’s soccer tournaments after terrorists. I have personally witnessed the faces of suicide bombers displayed from multiple streetlights within the Palestinian territory as a form of acknowledgement—in the same way that we acknowledge events or amazing achievements in Australia by hanging faces or flags from our streetlights. This is not taking the Palestinian people on a journey to accepting peace. This is entrenching the intransigence and the horrible status quo.
Supporting the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state just encourages these destructive Palestinian tactics. As long as they are able to believe that they just need to keep doing more of the same to achieve a state, without any concession of Israel’s right to exist, they will continue to do so. What is needed for peace is for the international community to make it clear to the Palestinians that they must cease their intransigence and support for terrorism if they wish to advance their cause, whilst making it clear also to Israel that it will be supported as long as it continues to negotiate in good faith.
Some cite settlements as a main obstacle to peace. While the settlements are certainly one of the more important issues that need to be resolved, they are not an obstacle. Even Palestinian leaders have admitted they occupy less than two per cent of the land in the West Bank. Since 2003 there have not been any new settlements established, although a new one has recently been announced to replace one that’s being dismantled, and those that exist have not been expanded beyond their existing geographic boundaries. Furthermore, most growth in the settlement populations have been in settlements that it is generally accepted Israel will keep as part of land swaps in any peace agreement. Thus, it is simply incorrect to say that the growth in settlements is in any way compromising the chance of a two-state peace. The settlements did not prevent Israel making its generous offers of Palestinian statehood in 2000 and 2001 and again in 2008.
The so-called boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is completely and utterly condemned as inherently anti-Semitic, and I call on all Australian political parties and institutions to disavow it immediately. There are challenges all over the world, but it’s only to Israel that such racist hatred is directed. Charles Krauthammer writes well when he says:
And don’t tell me this is merely about Zionism. The ruse is transparent. Israel is the world’s only Jewish state. To apply to the state of the Jews a double standard that you apply to none other, to judge one people in a way you judge no other, to single out that one people for condemnation and isolation — is to engage in a gross act of discrimination.
This motion calls on all parties to return to the negotiating table, and I encourage them to do so.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Rob Mitchell ): Is the motion seconded?