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Friday, 21 December 1990
Page: 5003

(Question No. 444)

Mr John Scott asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, upon notice, on 5 December 1990:

Further to the answer to question No. 52 (Hansard, 7 November 1990, page 3496) concerning the even-handedness of the Australian Government's policy towards the parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict, did the Government:

(a) unambiguously condemn the killing of at least 20 Palestinian demonstrators by Israeli security forces in Jerusalem on 8 October 1990; if not, why not;

(b) on 28 May 1990 support the emigration of Soviet Jews to Israel, which Israeli Prime Minister Shamir said, on 19 November 1990, should be to the ``Land of Israel from the sea to the River Jordan''; if so, what action has the Government taken to press the Government of Israel to abide by UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) which affirms the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes; and,

(c) while taking swift action to oppose the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, take similar action against Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and its annexation of the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 242; if not, why not.

Dr Blewett —The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(a) In a statement issued on 9 October as acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I deplored the deaths of some 20 Palestinians in East Jerusalem the previous day when Israeli security forces had fired on a large crowd of demonstrators. I acknowledged that the Israeli authorities had faced a very difficult situation, but I said the use of force on such a large scale appeared on the evidence available to be disproportionate. In my statement I said that the Israeli authorities must recognise the need for maximum restraint as tragic incidents such as that which took place on 8 October can only increase the frustration and antagonism of the Palestinian population.

(b) The Government made no statement on the emigration of Soviet Jews to Israel on 28 May 1990. Mr Scott may be referring to Senator Evans's statement of 23 May in the Senate in response to a Question Without Notice in which Senator Evans said: ``I would like to make it very clear that Australia wholeheartedly welcomes developments in the Soviet Union which have allowed Soviet Jews to emigrate. This is an issue on which Australia pressed the Soviet Union for several years''.

Senator Evans added: ``While nobody can have any possible objection to the emigration of such Soviet Jews to Israel, I, on behalf of the Australian Government, however share the concern expressed by a number of other countries that some of these new migrants have been allowed to settle in the Occupied Territories and that the Israeli Government is apparently willing to allow an increase in these numbers. It is obvious that continued movement into the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem, does not encourage Palestinians to pursue a negotiated path towards a dialogue with Israel. Again, I urge Israel and all other parties to the dispute to refrain from actions which might jeopardise the prospects of peace in the region.''

Australia voted in favour of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) of 1948, which resolved in paragraph 11 that refugees displaced in the 1948 Arab/Israeli War should be allowed to return to their homes. In relation to this issue I refer Mr Scott to an answer by Senator Evans to a Question Without Notice in the Senate on 21 May (tabled 25 May).

(c) Australia has opposed Israel's continuing occupation of the territories it occupied during the 1967 Arab/Israeli war. We support UN Security Council Resolution 242 calling for Israel's withdrawal from these territories. The circumstances of Israel's occupation of territory in 1967 were significantly different from the situation this year when Iraq invaded Kuwait. The Government rejects any linkage between the two issues.