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Monday, 18 August 2003
Page: 18682

Mr CREAN (Leader of the Opposition) (1:24 PM) —I welcome the opportunity that this motion presents to speak about the current peace process in the Middle East and to reaffirm Labor's support for the state of Israel. All Australians have applauded the government and the people of Israel for their det-ermination in pushing ahead with the peace process.

There is a special bond between Australia and Israel. It was Doc Evatt, as Labor's foreign minister in 1947, who chaired the United Nations committee on the partition of Palestine. In fact, there is a forest in Israel planted in honour of him—such is the admiration of the Jewish people for the role he played in the creation of the state of Israel. But there have been people on both sides of politics who have not shared Doc Evatt's vision. Indeed, Robert Menzies opposed the creation of the state of Israel and urged the British government to run a far more pro-Arab stance. More recently, former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer made comments highly critical of Israel. I do not share their views.

Let me set out clearly Labor's policy. Labor not only support the full implementation of the road map for peace; we strongly support a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Every effort must be made by all parties to commit to the road map and to persevere in its implementation. The first and most important task in achieving the vision of a two-state solution is security. Security for both Israelis and Palestinians is the cornerstone upon which peace and prosperity will be built. The Palestinian leadership has a responsibility to undertake immediate efforts to stop terrorism. As out-lined in the road map, this requires a demo-nstrable commitment from the Palestinian Authority to dismantle the terrorist infra-structure, including disarming and arresting individuals associated with the two most extremist groups: Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

I would urge the Palestinian leadership, including President Arafat, to fulfil the expectations of the road map and immediately begin the task of dismantling the infrastructure of terrorism. It will be a difficult task. It is a task that the Palestinian Authority should not be expected to do alone. The international community, including Australia, should assist wherever possible in bringing these terrorist groups to account. There will be no peace in the Middle East until there is an end to terrorist violence.

Phase 1 of the road map also requires Israel to do what is necessary for a democratic, independent and viable Palestinian state to be established. Progress to date on phase 1 commitments has been limited, but it has not been insignificant. Israel has made some important concessions in recent months. The release of Palestinian prisoners, the dismantling of illegal settlements and the withdrawal from West Bank towns have been important confidence building measures.

Despite some terrorist groups continuing their deadly trade during this time, the ceasefire which was announced on 29 June remains in place. A ceasefire is not peace, but it is a crucial start. Peace will be achieved only when there is a genuine political will. The Bush administration, in particular Secretary of State Colin Powell, must be given full credit for the courage and determination they have shown in bringing the two sides of the conflict together. States neighbouring Israel also have a responsibility to support the pro-cess. Any support for terrorism to undermine the peace process will be met with the strongest condemnation. Syria and Iran, in particular, must be under no illusion: support for terrorist organisations will not be tolerated.

After 2½ years of the intifada Israelis and Palestinians have suffered greatly, but we now see real hope that a two-state solution can be found and that a better future for all can be achieved through the road map for peace. Labor supports the motion before the House. But, as we know from past experience, words can come easily—the hard task will be to secure a real, long-term commitment to peace from both sides. That is what this parliament should also encourage and support.