06 March 2017

Jews are the first peoples of Israel – with a right to exist

From the AFR, 7 March 2017, by Nyunggai Warren Mundine:

Yasser Arafat and Bill Clinton: within a hair's breadth of peace. 

Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Australia was significant, both historically – the first visit by an Israeli Prime Minister – and for the future Australia-Israel relationship.

The relationship is founded on a strong base. Australia helped create Israel. In 1917 Australian soldiers helped defeat the Ottoman Empire's 400-year occupation of Palestine. Two days later Britain declared support for a Jewish national home there. In 1922 the League of Nations approved the Mandate for Palestine, appointing Britain mandatory power and tasking it with creating a Jewish state. This took 25 years, the UN adopting a partition plan for a Jewish state and an Arab state in 1947. Represented by former Labor leader "Doc" Evatt, Australia chaired the UN committee and cast the first General Assembly vote.

So I was disappointed that, during Netanyahu's visit, Labor luminaries Bob Hawke, Kevin Rudd and Gareth Evans called on Australia to formally recognise a Palestinian state. Symbolic recognition of a state when none exists is a hollow gesture that doesn't confront the elephant in the room: Palestinian leadership doesn't really support a two-state solution. Likewise, most Arab nations. They won't recognise Israel's right to exist.

The partition plan was a compromise in the face of Arab opposition to a Jewish state. Jews accepted the partition. Arabs didn't, wanting an Arab state only. Arab nations immediately invaded Israel. Israel won that war, gaining territory. Arab nations invaded Israel again unsuccessfully in 1967. Israel again gained territory, including East Jerusalem and the West Bank (from Jordan) and Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula (from Egypt). Israel offered to return everything except East Jerusalem in exchange for recognition. Arab leaders refused, resolving instead to assist Arabs in those territories to resist Israel.

Withdrawal from Gaza
Since 1967 Israel has been under constant threat, surrounded by countries who would drive it off the face of the earth. It invaded South Lebanon in response to attacks, withdrawing in 2000 only to experience hundreds more terrorist attacks from that region.

In 1978 Israel returned Sinai to Egypt in exchange for peace. All Israeli settlements were removed and Egypt recognised the State of Israel.

In 2005 Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, removing all settlements and handing control to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Gaza fell to Hamas who pursued its objective of destroying Israel. So Israel blockaded Gaza, allowing only humanitarian aid. Under Hamas, manufacturing and agriculture collapsed, unemployment rose to global highs and the economy fell into ruins. Gaza could have industry, trade and people commuting to Israel for work. Instead its people dig tunnels, plan suicide bombings and fire rockets.

Today the West Bank is administered in three areas. Area A, where most Palestinians live, has PA civil and security control. Area B has PA civil control and Israeli security control. Area C, where most Israeli settlements are, has Israeli civil and security control. Israelis and Palestinians live, work and do business together in and between Israel and the West Bank. But Israel restricts movement if required to manage security threats. These threats are encouraged by the PA who rewards Palestinians for attacking Israeli citizens with generous monthly payments. Last year, a Palestinian man killed a 13-year old Israeli girl in her bed. He was shot dead. Fatah (the PA's governing party) declared him a martyr. His mother called him a "hero". His family now receive monthly payments.

Sending the wrong signal
During Bill Clinton's presidency, Israel and the PA came within a hair's breadth of peace. Clinton blamed its failure on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Clinton asked both parties to negotiate within set parameters on disputed issues or walk away. Israel agreed, offering Gaza and 97 per cent of the West Bank. Arafat refused. Clinton suggested Arafat "couldn't make the final jump from revolutionary to statesman". Arafat's actions support this. By always wearing military uniform, he sent the message he believed in military victory, not a peace pact.

Clinton said the main hold-outs were the right of return (allowing Palestinian refugees since 1948 and their descendants to move to Israel) and Israeli control of the Western Wall. Palestinian demands on these issues reflect a refusal to recognise a Jewish state. The Palestinian leadership believes the right of return will make Israel an Arab state by flooding it with Palestinians. Ceding Jewish claims to Jerusalem means acknowledging Jews' ancient and continuing presence there, contradicting Arab propaganda that Jews are interlopers in Israel, not its first peoples who lived there for millennia before Arab colonisation.

Sinai, Gaza and the West Bank demonstrate peace won't happen unless both sides agree and Israel's right to exist is respected.

The Palestinian leadership baulks at supporting a Jewish state. This intransigence has repeatedly stood in the way of statehood and weakened the Palestinian position. If not overcome, there will never be a Palestinian state. Israel has twice ceded settlements and land but will never cede its right to exist. Politicians shouldn't expect it to.

Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO is Chairman and Managing Director of Nyungga Black Group

23 February 2017

Kim Beazley weighes into the growing ALP rift

From The Australian, February 24, 2017, PAUL MALEY:

Former Labor leader  within the party over the Middle East, saying Palestinian leaders have become “very comfortable’’ applying moral pressure on Israel but have not undertaken the hard decisions necessary to reach a lasting peace.

...His comments put him at odds with former Labor prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Bob Hawke, in whose cabinet Mr Beazley served as defence minister, after the two former leaders called for the formal recognition of Palestine.

The comments, which came just days before Mr Netanyahu’s arrival, prompted a slap-down by the Israeli Prime Minister, who questioned the kind of state that might come into being.
“What kind of state will it be that they are advocating? A state that calls for Israel’s destruction? ...A state whose territory will be used immediately for radical Islam?’’
...Mr Beazley argued that the weight of political pressure on Israel to recognise a Palestinian state had made it easier for Palestinian leaders to skirt difficult questions. “Their prestige is embellished by the support other countries give them and this removes incentives to reach an agreement,’’ he said.

The push inside Labor to extend formal diplomatic recognition to the Palestinians will come to a head at the next national conference.

Mr Shorten’s preference to adhere to Labor’s existing position, which withholds diplomatic recognition until a two-state solution is reached, is almost certain to be overturned.

Former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr, who has advocated to shift Labor’s policy toward a more pro-Palestinian line, said Mr Shorten would be rolled on the issue.


Friday, 24 February 2017

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bolster technology ties between the two ‘Startup States’.

Following the meeting, Ms Berejiklian announced that a groundbreaking knowledgesharing program, which saw eight NSW fintech startups travel to the Austrade Tel Aviv Landing Pad in 2016, would continue in 2017.

Ms Berejiklian said the program’s continuation was a “win-win for both NSW and Israel”.
“Israel leads the world in startup innovation and NSW leads the way here at home so
we are ideally matched to collaborate,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“In 2017 NSW will send a second delegation of NSW startups to Tel Aviv to be mentored by Israel’s experts, meet investors and then bring what they learn back to NSW – Australia’s ‘Startup State’.
“I was delighted today to discuss our important relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu who this week spoke of his desire to strengthen business ties and trade links between our nations.”
In 2016 the NSW Government signed an agreement with Israel to collaborate on joint research and development projects, as well as establish formal partnerships between businesses and universities

Labor’s jihad on Israel a disgrace

From the Herald Sun, February 22, 2017, by Andrew Bolt:

THERE is a simple and sinister reason Labor is now attacking Israel. 

It’s after Muslim votes.

Every federal seat with big Muslim minorities except Reid is now held by Labor, most in western Sydney.

And it shows. Labor’s NSW branch in particular is now leading a push to overturn Labor policy and formally recognise Palestine as a state, despite the refusal of Palestinian leaders to make peace with Israel.

That push is backed by Labor “elders” 

  • Bob Hawke
  • Gareth Evans
  • Bob Carr and 
  • Kevin Rudd, who also needs the support of Arab nations for a good United Nations job.

For Labor to push so hard to reward the Palestinians makes no moral sense — and is dangerous.

What exactly is the nature of this country it wants to recognise?

The Palestinian Authority’s president is Mahmoud Abbas, who 12 years ago was voted into the job for four years. That’s right: there hasn’t been an election since.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Picture: AFP

That’s in part because a key part of this “nation” — the populous Gaza Strip — is actually run by the Islamist Hamas party. These guys not only hate Abbas but Jews as well. In fact, their official charter calls for jihad to destroy Israel.

“Our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave,” it states, declaring it “strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine” and quoting the Koranic passage foretelling when “Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them”.

Labor thinks we should recognise a country represented by the unelected and the jihad-preaching?

Why? There is only one rational explanation, other than the Left’s yearning for the tribal and the primitive as it retreats from freedom.

It’s the numbers. Australia has only 100,000 Jews, many of whom vote for Labor anyway. But it has 500,000 Muslims, many in key marginal seats, and those votes need wooing.

Muslim imams are already playing politics with those numbers.

Right now in Western Australia, seven prominent imams have distributed a flyer in mosques arguing “the ideal result for Muslims in this state election is a Labor victory with as many Greens … to counter the presence of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation”.

This is not the first political intervention by Muslim leaders.

Three years ago, Australia’s Grand Mufti, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, threatened to punish federal Labor in western Sydney if it picked union leader Paul Howes for the Senate.

Bob Carr led MPs in a successful revolt against then prime minister Julia Gillard when she wanted Australia to abstain from a vote to give Palestine observer status at the United Nations.

The mufti accused Howes of a “blind bias for Israel” and warned Labor would lose the Muslim vote mustered for it at the last election if it picked him. It worked. Howes lost.

Bob Carr, one of the Labor “elders” not being supportive of Israel, has long urged Labor to follow this Muslim vote.

As foreign affairs minister in 2012, he led MPs in a successful revolt against prime minister Julia Gillard when she wanted Australia to abstain from a vote to give Palestine observer status at the United Nations.

As The Australian reported: “Cabinet ministers began to complain there was no real explanation for the position, arguing … many Labor seats were affected by Middle Eastern populations … ”

Troy Bramston, a former Labor speechwriter, reported the same thing: “Carr stood in Gillard’s office and told her, eyeball to eyeball, to change her mind or she faced a humiliating defeat ...

“Critically, there is the growing Muslim and Christian makeup of several key western Sydney Labor seats … Some sections of the party suggest Victorian Labor is too close to the Israel lobby and does not fully understand the underlying changes in Sydney’s outer suburbs.”

Three years ago, Australia’s Grand Mufti, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, threatened to punish federal Labor in Western Sydney if it picked union leader Paul Howes for the Senate.

It is no accident that NSW Labor MPs are more hostile to Israel than the Victorian ones, notably Gillard and now Labor leader Bill Shorten. NSW is where the big Muslim minorities are, and they have forced some MPs into taking astonishing positions.

Take Labor frontbencher Tony Burke, the member for Watson, where Muslims make up 20 per cent of voters. Three years ago Burke gave a speech at a fundraiser for the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network in which he accused Israel of “trashing” the drinking water of Palestinians. He then added:
“For those who are political advocates within Palestine itself, I will never know the bravery that comes with putting your life on the line and at risk, in engaging in politics in different ways.”
Pardon? Who are these death-defying “people engaging the politics in different ways”?

Something in Labor has broken when a senior Labor politician praises what listeners would assume are terrorists and jihadists.

What’s broken are Labor’s values — its commitment to democracy and peace above tyranny and terror.

Its anti-Israel jihad is a disgrace.

22 February 2017

Ambassador Dave Sharma should be praised, not attacked.

In defence of Ambassador Dave Sharma

On February 7, Australia-based online news site Crikey asked the question "Does DFAT support Israeli settlements?" The short piece essentially attacks Australia's Ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, for "his support for the Israeli Government" and for "working with a group that actively promotes the key threat [which is settlements according to the article] to the two-state solution".
This response was sent to Crikey on February 17, but has not been published.
The arguments presented can be debunked with relative ease. For example, early on the piece asserts that the two-state solution is "dead in the water thanks to incessant Israeli building on occupied land, illegal under the Geneva convention":
  • As can be found here, settlements take up less than two per cent of the West Bank and no new settlements have been built since 1999. In fact, Israel has laws that forbid geographic expansion of settlements. 
  • Peace Watch's Lior Amihai said in a 2014 interview, in which he was extremely critical of settlements, that despite them a two-state outcome "is very possible".
  • International law academic Prof Eugene Kontorovich, in a study of Article 49(6) of the Convention as it is applied around the world concluded that "the reaction to [Israel's] West Bank settlements and interpretation of 49(6) generally applied is ‘entirely anomalous'." 
The piece then cites the fact Sharma organised a workshop on trends, challenges and scenarios on Israel's northern border in conjunction with US-based organisation The Israel Project (TIP):
"TIP is a strong supporter of Israeli settlements and has commissioned consultants to test the best ways to convince Americans to back them. TIP even attacked outgoing secretary of state John Kerry for his anodyne statement in support of a two-state solution."
In reality, TIP is not a strong supporter of settlements at all, but merely asked one question about settlements among many in a 2009 study about what language to use when discussing the many complex issues surrounding Israel , the Palestinians and the wider Middle East.
Presumably the second assertion relates to Kerry's speech of December 2016, which TIP did indeed criticise. However, TIP did not criticise Kerry for supporting a two-state outcome, but rather the lack of balance in his speech, his support for the highly flawed UNSC Resolution 2334 and his insistence that the settlements, and not Palestinian intransigence, rejectionism and incitement, are the primary obstacle to a resolution.
Perhaps most concerning is Sharma is being attacked for doing his job, and doing it very well. Why wouldn't an ambassador want his staff to be kept fully abreast of challenges and developments in the country in which they serve?
After all, Article 3 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations lists, among other things, a function of a diplomatic mission as "ascertaining by all lawful means conditions and developments in the receiving State". Is a workshop on trends, challenges and scenarios on Israel's northern border not fulfilling this criteria exactly? As for the assertion of Sharma's "support for the Israeli Government", another function of a diplomatic mission, according to the convention, is "promoting friendly relations between the sending State and the receiving State, and developing their economic, cultural and scientific relations".
Sharma's proactive approach and out-of-the-box thinking are a big reason why he's been such a successful ambassador. Some of his highlights are:
  • Using sport, entertainment and hi-tech to celebrate the relationship and strengthen links between Australia and Israel.
  • Attending a Digital Diplomacy conference to both contribute his ideas and to enhance his own knowledge of the sphere.
  • Creating a regular program for ambassadors from smaller countries in Asia and the Pacific to meet with senior Israeli political and judicial figures.
  • Taking an interest in Israel's hi-tech success and what lessons can be learned to boost Australia's own innovation sector.
  • Organising the first oil and gas conference of its kind in Israel.
  • Taking his team for lunch at Tel Aviv's Sarona Market as a show of solidarity the day after a Palestinian terrorist shot four people there.
Indeed, when Sharma's tenure as Ambassador finishes up in June, his successor will have a hard act to follow, such has been the diligence with which Sharma has done his job.
Let's be clear - Sharma's role is to carry out the policy of the elected government in Canberra - that policy is to promote the growth of friendly relations with Israel, and also to work towards an eventual two-state Israeli Palestinian peace resolution. The writer of the Crikey attack may believe that it should be Australian policy to have nothing to do with the current Israeli government and to boycott anyone who is not explicitly and publicly anti-settlement, but that is simply not Australia's current policy. Further it is not Sharma's role as a public servant to implement the policy preferred by a blogger at Crikey, but that of the government he represents. And he has done that extremely well. 

It is simply immoral to personally attack public servants for carrying out the policy of their elected government, even if one disagrees with it.
Ambassador Sharma should be praised, not attacked.

21 February 2017

Recognize ...what, exactly?

From The Australian, 22 Feb 2017, by STEPHEN FITZPATRICK:

Benjamin Netanyahu and Malcolm Turnbull at Admiralty House in Kirribilli. 
Picture: Toby Zerna

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has challenged Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd to define what they mean by Palestinian statehood, saying a “terrorist state” would be the likely outcome unless Israel retained full control of military security in the territories.
“I prefer not to deal with labels but with substance, but I have a simple question for both former prime ministers: what kind of state will it be?” Mr Netanyahu said after meeting with Malcolm Turnbull at Kirribilli House in Sydney.
Mr Rudd this morning called for the federal Opposition to make recognition of Palestinian statehood Labor policy, following similar calls from Mr Hawke and other ALP luminaries.
“A state which calls for Israel’s destruction? A state whose territories will be used for radical Islam? Israel already gave up Gaza to the Palestinian Authority and this became a terrorist state.
“Secondly, we know that in the realities of the Middle East, if Israel does not ensure the security (of Palestine) then that state will become another bastion of radical Islam. We have to make sure the Palestinians recognise the Jewish state, and we have to ensure Israel has responsibility for security over all the territories.”...
Mr Netanyahu said, however, that he sensed a “change” in the region, with many Arab nations now realising they must also face the “malignant forces … radical forces that seek to take all of humanity back to a dark age”.

On a negotiated two-state solution in Israel, Mr Turnbull said it appeared possible that “perhaps the moons are aligning for the parties to come back to the table, but it takes two to tango”....

Welcome, PM Netanyahu!

From The Australian, 22 Feb 2017, by Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister of Australia:

Our friendship is as old as the state of Israel itself.

Australia was the first country to vote in favour of the 1947 UN partition resolution adopted by the General Assembly, which led to the establishment of Israel in 1948. Following the vote, Israeli representative Abba Eban acknowledged Australia’s contribution: “The manner in which you steered to a vote this second historic resolution … the warmth and eloquence with which you welcomed Israel into the family of nations, have earned for you the undying gratitude of our people.”

The key role Australia played in ensuring the security and prosperity of the Jewish people should be a source of pride for us all.

This week our friendship will take a historic step forward. For the first time, a serving Israeli prime minister will visit Australia. The government is honoured to host Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Our peoples are bound together first and foremost by the values we share — a mutual commitment to freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

And as a majority Christian nation, we share the rich cultural inheritance of the Bible, its stories and values a foundation and a context for our history, our literature, our imagination.

And we could not imagine modern Australia, the most successful multicultural society in the world, without the brilliance and the enterprise of our almost 120,000-strong Jewish-Australian community.

To paraphrase the great Shimon Peres, Australia and Israel understand the value of creativity and innovation. Together our scientists and businesspeople are partners in every field of technology. Australia is vast, Israel is tiny. But both are short of water and we lead the world in making every drop count so that deserts can bloom.

I’m particularly keen to discuss with Prime Minister Netanyahu the progress of our “landing pad” in Tel Aviv — the second of five innovation hubs to be established globally — which is helping Australian entrepreneurs make the connections they need to link into Israel’s world-class start-up and innovation ecosystem.

While in Australia, Prime Minister Netanyahu and I will oversee the signing of an air services agreement to enhance air links; explore opportunities for greater collaboration in cyberspace; commit to negotiations on an agreement on science and technology co-operation; and announce a declaration of intent to create a fully operational and commercial farm around Wagga Wagga. The new facilities will provide Australian farmers with an opportunity to benefit from world-leading Israeli dairy and agricultural technology.

Israel is a miraculous nation. It has flourished despite invasion, conflict and an almost complete lack of natural resources, other than the determination and genius of its people.

And yet in a region racked by war, it succeeds as the sole liberal democracy, a world leader in every field of science and technology, its culture of innovation the envy of the world.

Despite these achievements and the breadth of our relationship, many view Israel exclusively through the lens of its conflict with the Palestinians. They demand that the government take the side of those in the international community who seek to chastise Israel — and it alone — for the continuing failure of the peace process. In a speech to the UN General Assembly in 2015, Prime Minister Netanyahu pointed out that in the preceding 12 months, the General Assembly had adopted 20 resolutions critical of Israel, compared to just one in response to the war in Syria, which has resulted in more than 250,000 killed and millions driven from their homes.

My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticising Israel of the kind recently adopted by the UN Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state.

At the same time, we recognise that Israel and the Palestinians need to come to a settlement and we support a directly negotiated two-state solution so that Palestinians will have their own state and the people of Israel can be secure within agreed borders.

We believe that with so many other larger, more destructive and intractable disputes in the Middle East, this is a time when Israeli and Palestinian leaders, supported by the global community, should return to the negotiating table and work towards a solution that upholds the rights of both peoples to live side by side in peace and security.