Letter to Editor, Canberra Times

Oct 11, 2011

Written in a response to an opinion piece by Colin Rubenstein

Colin Rubenstein (Opinion 11/10) presents Israel as a faultless member of peace negotiations, unfortunately reinforcing a one sided perspective.

Part of the other side of the story is that Palestine has been in peace negotiations with Israel for 20years, with settler numbers almost tripling in this time.   Settlement growth deliberately establishes more ‘facts on the ground’ to make a Palestine state more difficult.

Israel’s announcement that it will build a further 1,100 housing units in the West Bank is provocative, and Kevin Rudd was right to condemn this. This expansions supports Israeli strategy to divide Palestinians from one another and from Jerusalem.

While calling these new units ‘marginal’ and due to natural population growth, he neglects to mention that Israel systematically declines planning permits to Palestinians, and has demolished almost 25,000 Palestinian homes in the West Bank.

Rubenstein appears to suggest that Israel was established with a negotiated settlement.  However in 1947 Israel unilaterally and militarily took land greater than that being negotiated at the UN, driving two thirds of Palestinians from their homes and villages.  More than 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed by Israeli forces. Over 13,000 Palestinians were killed.  Palestinians are now the largest and most longstanding refugee group in the world.

Rubeinstein criticizes Hamas’s refusal to make a declaration in support of Israel’s right to exist as an Jewish sovereign state.  However Israel has never declared Palestine’s right to exist as an independent and sovereign state.  The Likud’s party platform itself states  “The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.”

Australia must be willing to listen to Palestinian perspectives as well as Israeli ones if we are to have a balanced foreign policy.  In this regard we welcome the statement signed by Malcolm Fraser, Barry Jones, Ross Burns, Elizabeth Evans and others for Australia to support the Palestinian bid for Statehoood (https://apan.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Statement-on-Recognition-of-Palestinian-Statehood_v4.pdf).