Wednesday, 20 February 2019
70th Anniversary of Australia's Formal Diplomatic Relationship with the State of Israel
I am pleased to speak on the 70th anniversary of Australia's formal diplomatic relationship with the state of Israel. I appreciate the good relationship between Australia and Israel but there is a big problem, a Palestinian problem. I want to take us back to a few important dates in time, and those dates start from World War I. After the Battle of Gaza and the Battle of Beersheba, British forces, including Australians and Palestinians, fought off the German backed Ottoman Empire. In the 1920s, Palestinians were promised their own homeland where they could live for a thousand years. In 1948 the British government promised Israel a large portion of Palestine as their new homeland. The Palestinians were booted off their homeland and some are still in refugee camps today.
In 1967, in the Six-Day War, Israel claimed extra land, including the Golan Heights, and the occupation of Palestine began. In that move, 7,000 hectares was annexed from East Jerusalem to the Jewish people. In 1990, the West Bank divided into three areas—A, B and C. Area C, which was 60 per cent of the West Bank, was totally controlled by Israel. Areas A and B were partially self-governed but Israel still controlled those areas. That included all travel abroad, which university you went to, where you worked and who could visit Gaza. You needed permits to go anywhere, at any time. The register of births, deaths and marriages was with the Israelis.
Four hundred thousand Israelis now live in territories on the West Bank in 200 settlements, and that figure is growing daily. The 1993 Oslo Accords signed in Washington by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, the PLO, did little to correct any imbalances. In 2005, Israel completed its so-called disengagement with Gaza. In 2006, Israel bombed the power plant in Gaza. In 2007, Israel imposed blockades on Gaza. In 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2018, Israel conducted military operations in Gaza. In 2017, the Israeli occupation of West Bank and Gaza reached 50 years. Overall, the situation is getting worse and not better.
How do we fix this problem? Should it be a one-state solution or a two-state solution? Of course, Australia favours the two-state solution. Israel still maintains effective control over all of those living in Palestine, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. From the Palestinian point of view, they want to live as equals, have the Israelis as neighbours and be good neighbours. For a two-state solution, Israel must return land taken in the 1967 war and, of course, let the Palestinians be masters of their own destiny and live peacefully with Israel.
There are 134 foreign countries who support Palestine in its aspirations for a better future, jobs for their youth, water security, an ability to run their own lives and not be ripped out of their beds at two o'clock in the morning and have their homes demolished the next day. Little has been done to challenge Israel's policy. The longer the world allows this reality to continue, the worse it gets. The big risk is the radicalisation of youth, as they see no future if the current situation continues.