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Monday, 17 September 2007
Page: 64

Mr DANBY (4:05 PM) —I commend the honourable member for Indi for introducing this motion. As the honourable member for Barton, the shadow foreign minister, has made clear, the motion has the opposition’s support. For many months—ever since the three hostages were kidnapped in Israel in an unprovoked military abduction—this issue has been in the forefront of the minds of many people in my electorate and in the Australian Jewish community around Australia. I commend in particular two people from the Australian Jewish community, Dr Danny Lam and Philip Chester, who have organised the visit to Australia of Mr Shlomo Goldwasser, the father of Master Sergeant Ehud Goldwasser. I think having Shlomo here has helped the House to focus on this issue of the abductions.

I might say that it is not only this House that has examined this issue. As Mr Goldwasser explained to us just before this debate, similar resolutions have been passed in the Russian upper house, in the House of Commons and in the French, Italian and US senates. Moreover, as the member for Barton so clearly pointed out, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 demands—it is international law—that these three soldiers abducted from areas inside their own territory be released.

Like people in those international assemblies and our visitors here today, I am angry that these three young Israeli servicemen were abducted from inside Israeli territory and, like them, I am distressed that these three men have been held ever since by the terrorists of Hamas and Hezbollah. Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organisations. I am frustrated that efforts to secure their release by Israeli and international negotiators, government and non-government, have been unsuccessful.

Our awareness of this tragic situation has been heightened by the visit of Shlomo Goldwasser. Ehud Goldwasser was abducted by Hezbollah terrorists on 12 July 2006. Mr Goldwasser is here with us today in Parliament House, and I know that he has had a sympathetic hearing from members on all sides. I want to pay tribute to him for his fortitude over the past 14 months, and to all other family members of the three abducted soldiers—the other soldiers being Corporal Gilad Shalit and Sergeant Eldad Regev. I know that you have had a sympathetic hearing from the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the shadow foreign minister; we have just had a meeting of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade; and you are going to meet the Leader of the Opposition. Mr Goldwasser, this is surely an indication, along with this debate, that the Australian parliament supports you and supports the freedom of your son. I hope that the people who are holding the soldiers understand the contempt that they are raising in Australia by their actions in keeping your son and the two other men.

The abduction of the three men did not occur by accident. It was a coordinated attack on Israel by Hamas, operating from Gaza, and Hezbollah, operating from southern Lebanon. These are both territories which Israel had evacuated. There were no Israeli forces in either Lebanon or Gaza at the time of the abductions, which is why the terrorists crossed into Israeli territory to seize these three soldiers. What unites Hamas, a Syrian-backed Sunni organisation, with Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shiah organisation, is their determination to destroy the state of Israel.

There are mainstream Palestinian organisations which are, at least in rhetoric or in principle, prepared to come to a peace agreement. But unfortunately Hezbollah and Hamas are not. The aim of the abductions was to provoke Israel into military action and to set back the peace process. Sadly for the people of the region, Hamas and Hezbollah—and their controllers in Syria and Iran—succeeded in this objective. As Mr Goldwasser pointed out, Israel went to the extent of going to war to free his son; similarly, they have been trying to release by military means Gilad Shalit in Gaza—unfortunately, to date, to no effect.

These three young men will be released only through international pressure on those holding them: the leaderships of Hamas and Hezbollah and the Syrian and Iranian regimes which sponsor, arm, fund and train those organisations. This is not something that Israel can do itself. The pressure must come from the international community, and this motion is part of that pressure. I know that Mr Goldwasser and all the families concerned are grateful for statements of support of this kind. I commend this motion to the House. These abductions are a breach of the Geneva convention and the world will judge the credibility of the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Mr Sinora, and Sheikh Nasrallah on this issue. (Time expired)