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Thursday, 29 May 2003
Page: 15506


Mr ROSS CAMERON (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Family and Community Services) (9:53 AM) —I recall that, in the context of the leadership tussle with Bob Hawke, Paul Keating said that leadership is not about tripping over television cables in shopping centres but about being willing to tackle your own constituency. In the context of my current remarks on the improved prospects for a peace settlement in Palestine and Israel, I recall that Yitzhak Rabin, the assassinated former Israeli leader, once remarked that you do not make peace with your friends. Clearly, what is required in this two-generation-long conflict is for key figures to step out of their areas of comfort, out of traditional patterns of rhetoric, and be willing to take on their own constituencies.

I could not allow this occasion to pass without congratulating Ariel Sharon. He produced a statement this week which would have to be described as in the character of taking on your own constituency when he told the Likud Party that Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories cannot go on indefinitely. He said that holding 3.5 million Palestinians is a bad thing for Israel, a bad thing for the Palestinians and a bad thing for the Israeli economy. He said, `You may not like the word “occupation” but that is in fact what is taking place.' He received outraged responses from elements of the right in Israel and in the Diaspora around the world but I thought it was a very gutsy call.

In the same way, I was pleased to see Mahmoud Abbas appointed as Prime Minister in the Palestinian Authority and the move that that reflected towards a genuine commitment to the peace process. The President of the United States has now launched his so-called road map to peace with its three elements and indicated that he is looking forward to a meeting between Mahmoud Abbas and Ariel Sharon in the relatively near future.

I note the presence in the chamber of the member for Melbourne Ports, the deputy chair of the Australia-Israel committee, and am encouraged as Chair of the Palestinian Friendship Group by the fact that he and I would be absolutely of one mind on this issue. This is a pregnant moment of opportunity. We need peace in Israel and an independent state of Palestine for peace throughout the rest of the Middle East and the world. I commend the statement by the Israeli Prime Minister to the House. (Time expired)