SPEECH TO THE STATE ZIONIST COUNCIL ON THE OCCASION OF THE 34TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FOUNDING OF ISRAEL
Period of Service: 11/11/1975 to 11/03/1983
Release Date: 22/04/1982
Release Type: Speech
Transcript ID: 5800
Document: Original Transcript (PDF 253.17 KB)
FOR MEDIA THURSDAY, 22 APRIL14982
SPEECH TO THE STATE ZIONIST COUNCIL ON THE OCCASION
OF THE 34TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FOUNDING OF ISRAEL
In 1948, wh~ en the State of Israel was founded, it seemed
that the dream of Jewish people everywhere was at the point
of realisation. That dream was the
attainment of' peace and justice, after centuries of deprivation.
Israel's crea~ tion seemed to offer at last the great fulfilment
of " a haven for the Jewish people". But in the few decades
since the achievement of that independence in 1948, Israel has
had to fight four wars to maintain it.
There could be no more bitter reminder of how hard it can
be to secure a goal which most Australians take for granted,
the goal of national survival, of national security and safety. ThroughLit the
34 years of its history, Israel has lived in ' an envi ronmaent of continuous
threat s to its very existence.
Few Australians have experience of living under--such a threat,
most of us can only try to imagine what it must be like. : But
our . appreciat-ion of the magnitude of Israel's difficulties
is no less intense for that. That appreciation lies at the
heart of Aust~ ralia' s unreserved support for Israel's right
to exist over the last 34 years. Our belief in this right
has remained central to our Middle East policy throughout these!
years and this policy will not change.
It is now app roaching five years since President Sadat.
visited Israel and made his historic address to the Knesset,
thus opening up the period of Israel-Egypt rapprochement which
has given so much hope for the future. Through that visit, and
through the IEsraelis' willingness to respond, the stage was
set for reso: lving the hatred, bitterness and suspicion
engendered by the conflicts since the Second World War.
That resolution is nowhere near fully accomplished. But
the curtain on the first act is coming down as Israel completes
its voluntary withdrawal from the Sinai under the Camp David
Agreements with Egypt.
This voluntary withdrawal, coming at this time, means that
future generations will attach a very special significance to
the 34th anniversary of -Israel which we all celebrate . tonight.
This withdrawal will return to Egypt all the Egyptian
territories occupied by Israel during the 1967 war. It is
an action which has required great courage and great wisdom
on the part of the Israeli Government and people. The
territories were the gains of war, and they have been put to use
as the coin of peace.
With high levels of tensions elsewhere on Israel's immediate
borders, in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, Israel has had to maintain
high courage indeed to implement this peace on its border
with Egypt. Egypt has been the only Arab neighbour with whom
it has so far been possible for Israel to establish a treaty
of peace. But let us hope that this year's anniversary'of
Israeli independence will not only mark the end of a chapter in
the search for peace in the Middle East. Let us hope it will
also be remembered as the opening of a new chapter in this
search, for peace, a search which is important to all countries,
I believe Australia can take pride in the fact that our
participation in the peace process has been real, and that we
have done what we can to advance a cause so close to all our
hearts. We have contributed a contingent to the Peacekeeping
Force, over 100 men, as well as equipment.
The establishment of that force has been a crucial element,
a decisive element, in the willingness of both Israel and
Egypt to find and implement peace.
There are two things which I would like to say about our
participation in the Sinai Peacekeeping Force. Many people
here will recall how fashionable it was after the* United
Nations was frustrated as a peacekeeping agency by the attitude
of the Soviet Union, to denounce the continued efforts of
Israel," Egypt and the United States to maintain the momentum
of peac6. The Australian Government had to consider the
question of cur participation in the Peacekeeping Force against
a chorus of scepticism about the Camp David peace process.
There was widespread doubt and cynicism about President
Reagan's request that Australia join the multinational
force. and -a good deal'of alarm in some places aboutwhLat might
When we took our decision last October, making it conditional
on significant European participation, we had no certainty that
wide-ranging participation would eventuate. But we-felt that
a country lik e Australia could make a significant contribution,
that we couldI help -icourage other countries * to take part so that the f orcE
could be put into) being. We felt the risks of failure were o6utweighed
by the positiLve gains to be achieved.
Our decision involved making a judgement against an uncertain
future. There are risks, especially in a democracy, in coming
to decisions which have to be based on assessments which cannot
be proved, blut in an uncertain world, taking such-risks is. sometimes
well justifiEd. Henry Kissinger, who played a key part in
building up confidence between Egypt and Israel, recently
made a comment which is very relevant to this. " Often", he
said, " expertise consists of management of the familiar-#. while
society needs a vision of a future that no one has yet
As everyone knows, the Australian Government's judgement
and decision on the Peacekeeping force has been confirmed
by events. A wide cross-section of the international community
has become involved, and the members of the Peacekeeping-
Force are now taking up their positions from El Arish to
the straits of Tiran. There is little doubt that Australia's
decision was a catalyst in achieving the genuinely multinational
force which was clearly vital for success. It is a matter
for satisfaction that little of the cynicsm of earlier days is now
to be heard.--
There have been futher gains as well. As a consequence
of the wide participation in the force, a number of Israel's
friends have gained a better aw.. areness of the risks Israel has taken
8f the -courage Israel has shown. Since the European governments--reached their
agreements with Israel to join the force, President Mitterrand
and Lord Carrington both visited Israel. Both held discussions
which were constructive and gave reassurance to the Israelis
that European policy goes beyond the development of dialogue
with the Arabs. They obtained in turn a clearer understanding
of the imperatives of security for Israel.
All of this should be of comfort to Israel, and it is
certainly gratifying to Australia, for there can be
genuine advances in perceptions of problems and attitudes
to their solution as a result of such meetings and discussions.
This leads me to a further aspect of Australia's approach
in relation to our support for the peacekeeping force.
our concern from the start has been f orw. ard-looking and
the Camp David Accords contain two parts. The first deals
with the return of the Sinai, and only a very few years
ago it would have been hard to believe that the success
which is now imminent could cone so quickly.
The other part deals with autonomy for the
inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza after the establishment
of an elected self-governing authority. As I have noted on
other occasions, these two parts of the accords are not
separate: they are interconnected two parts of a total
and very carefully negotiated package at Camp David.
Recent outbreaks of violence in cities on the West Bank
show how close to the surface are the tensions that
exist in that territory. The aspirations of the Palestinians
tahree am osmiegnntuimfi coafn tC amfap ctDoarv idu nids erltyoi nbge tmhaaitn tvaiinoeledn, cea, waany d neiefd" s
to be found for Israel to give appropriate recognition to them.
We believe, as Mr Street said during his recent visit to
Israel, that the legitimate rights of the Palestinians
include a homeland alongside Israel, and the right
to participate directly in decisions affecting their future.
This of course is not recognition of the PLO.
Indeed, while the PLO refuses to recognise Israel's.. right to
exist, there can be no consideration by Australia of the question
of recognising the PLO. If the PLO genuinelywants peace,
they will change their policies, they will recognise
Israel's undoubted right to live within secure and
recognised borders. Their denial of Israel's right to
exist is provocative. It does nothing to open the
door to peace. Without willingness by the PLO to face the
reality of Israel's rights, there will be little with
which to build on what has already been achieved.