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Monday, 13 November 1995
Page: 2742


Senator FERGUSON —I wish to associate myself with the remarks that have been made by both the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gareth Evans) and the leader of the coalition, Senator Hill. The tragic assassination last week of Prime Minister Rabin brought back some very vivid memories for me. I, like Senator Baume, spent some time in Israel in 1965, which was only a short time after Senator Baume's visit.

  I, too, remember the state of Israel. Israel was just a fledgling state at that stage; it had been 17 years since the state had been in existence. It was a state which was still trying to consolidate its position in the area; a state which had no social intercourse with any of its neighbours—the only way of getting into Israel was, as Senator Baume mentioned, through the Mandelbaum Gate crossing no-man's-land, which I remember vividly as well. It was a young nation of people made up mainly of immigrants from other countries who were trying to establish themselves as a state in the area and as a state where they felt some sort of security.

  Prime Minister Rabin had an outstanding military career. Remember that the Israel I know was the Israel prior to the 1967 conflict, the 1973 conflict and all of the other conflicts that Israel found itself facing over the 30 years that have passed since my time there. Prime Minister Rabin had an outstanding military career in this period. It must be remembered that at the end of that outstanding military career he probably fought his hardest fight—the fight for peace.

  In military engagements you know who your enemies are; when you are fighting for peace they are sometimes very hard to identify. The fact that on this particular occasion the assassin was someone from within Prime Minister Rabin's own country means that it was one of those opponents who are impossible to identify. In his fight for peace, he has done more for Israel probably then he ever did as a military commander, even though I guess during those days it was a case of establishing their boundaries and consolidating their place as a state in the Middle East.

  Certainly, in that fight for peace the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin will be remembered as someone who sacrificed his life in the service of his country. We can only hope that his endeavours in the field of peace will be remembered by all those who seek to achieve those aims.