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Tuesday, 16 October 1973
Page: 2223

Mr BERINSON (Perth) -For the last 10 days we have been witness to a new chapter in the tragic modern history of the Middle East. For the fourth time in its short 25 years of life Israel has been forced to fight for its very survival. For the third time it fights alone with hardly so much as a friendly voice to be heard in its support. For the second time it is the victim of the combined aggression of Arab States, now 9 in number, unprovoked by any act by Israel but simply by the fact that it continues to exist.

It is a tragedy of awful dimensions already and seemingly limitless potential. The loss of life must certainly be greater than at any time since the 1948 war of independence itself and as in 1948, while there is the remotest prospect of Israeli defeat the world, with the single exception of the United States stands by mute and paralytic. The cost of this war is borne in the first place by the Israeli victims of it - their dead and wounded and bereaved. In human terms, the cost on the Arab side is just as awful. But there have been political costs as well which extend far from the area of combat. In the first place we have learnt that the high sounding declarations of developing detente between the great powers are not to be regarded with optimism or hope but with the utmost cynicism. James Reston of the New York Times News Service is worth quoting at length. I seek leave to incorporate an extract of his column of 10 October.

Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -

The latest Middle East crisis between Israel and the Arab States has produced an even more important crisis between the United States and the Soviet Union, and between the United States and the Communist Government of China.

In those big televised meetings between Nixon, Brezhnev, Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai in Moscow and Peking, the leaders of the major powers agreed to support universal principles, which would lead to a new order in the world, but when they all gathered around here at the United Nations on the East River during the latest Middle East crisis, they sang a different tune.

You have to go back to all those reassuring communiques out of the Kremlin and Shanghai in order to understand what the Soviet and Chinese representatives said here at the United Nations about the Middle East crisis.

At the end of May 1972, after the Nixon-Brezhnev meeting in the Kremlin, they said they were 'guided by their obligations under the charter of the United

Nations, that they were aware of the need to make every effort to remove the threat of war and to create conditions which promote the reduction of tensions. >

The United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics', they said, 'have a special responsibility to do everything in their power so that conflicts on situations will not arise which would increase international tensions. . '. .'

This was big news when President Nixon went to Moscow. It was also big news when Nixon and Premier Chou En-Lai of China signed the Shanghai declaration of February 27 1972, declaring that 'both wish to reduce the danger of international conflict . . neither is prepared to negotiate on behalf of any third party. . . .'

Yet when the latest crisis developed in the Middle East, all these noble promises and intentions seem to have been forgotten. Though President Nixon appealed to Chairman Brezhnev to co-operate in getting a cease-fire along the Suez, and Secretary of State Kissinger urged Huang Hua of China here to co-operate in a big-power effort to stop the fighting, the plain fact is that Washington got no co-operation.

Huang Hua said it was 'perfectly just' for the Arab countries to 'rise in resistance to the invading enemies of their own sacred territories'. Yakob Malik of the Soviet Union not only supported the military activities of Egypt and Syria against Israel, but criticsed the United Nations Security Council for even raising the question at the United Nations.

And this is the main point - the information coming here to the United Nations was that the Soviet Union, while committed to reduce tensions under the Nixon-Brezhnev agreement, was actually urging Algeria, Lebanon and particularly the King of Jordan to get into the war against Israel.

This is not a casual or frivolous report.'

Mr BERINSON - But the new detente is not the only political casualty of this war; the other is the United Nations itself which by its impotence in this crucial situation has set the final seal on its own irrelevance. Of course, the virtual uselessness of the United Nations in the absence of big power agreement has been obvious for years, but it was always possible to find a reason for its inactivity in a particular case which left room for hope that it might yet find a peace-keeping role at least on the periphery. For example, if it did nothing about Hungary or Czechoslovakia that was because Russia was a principal party in those events and would have inevitably and invariably used its veto to block any attempted action. In Vietnam a similar excuse could be made on the grounds of America's involvement and there were all sorts of juridical arguments possible as well. All sorts of issues were available for dispute and if they did not justify United Nations inactivity they could at least help some people, so inclined, to try to explain it.

But what can- possibly be said in justification or explanation of United Nations paralysis in the present Middle East war. For all the obscurity of the present military position this much at least must be clear to all: Firstly, Israel is an internationally recognised sovereign State and a member of the United Nations. Secondly, according to the undisputed reports of United Nations observers Israel has been the victim of a massive co-ordinated attack by Egyptian and Syrian forces in violation of a ceasefire and of ceasefire lines established under United Nations auspices. Thirdly, Egypt and Syria have now been joined by forces of Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait - all United Nations members themselves. Finally the Security Council has so far met 4 times, but so abortively to this point that it has not yet reached the stage of considering, let alone adopting, any resolution at all. And this same United Nations was to be the hope of the world. Who will ever believe it.

Now what is the Australian position? So far as the general Middle East problem is concerned the Government view as enunciated by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) might be summarised by the following set of principles; all of them reasonable and proper: Recognition by the Arab States of Israel's sovereignty and right to exist; settlement of disputes by direct negotiations and not by imposed third-party solutions; withdrawal from occupied territories to recognised and secure, which is to say defensible, boundaries; and settlement of the refugee problem. In respect of the war itself, the Prime Minister has stated that the first priority of the Government through its membership and chairmanship of the Security Council is to attempt to secure a ceasefire. He adds, however, that he sees no advantage in seeking to apportion blame for the ceasefire violation nor, apparently, would he link his efforts with a call to restore the original ceasefire lines. In the realms of high diplomacy, about which I admittedly know nothing, that may well be the best and most constructive approach and I respect it on that basis. I trust, however, that I will be excused for doubting it and for preferring the approach of this statement which has the support of a majority of Government back benchers, and which I seek leave to incorporate.

Mr SPEAKER - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -

Recognising that the chairmanship of the Security Council by the Australian Ambassador, Sir Lawrence Mclntyre, could make it desirable for Australia to remain as uncommitted as possible in public discussions on the Middle East war, the undersigned nonetheless feel obliged to express the following view:

1.   United Nations observers have reported that the war was precipitated by a co-ordinated breach of the ceasefire lines by Egyptian and Syrian forces. No independent evidence is available to suggest any prior crossing or violation of the ceasefire lines by Israel.

2.   The Security Council should immediately call for the restoration of the ceasefire and of the ceasefire lines.

3.   This further tragic war again indicates the need for all possible action to achieve peace in the Middle East by means of direct negotiations, safeguarding the integrity and sovereignty of Israel and all the nations in the Middle East within secure and defensible borders.

4.   Australia, as an unaligned party in the Middle East dispute, should take every initiative open to it to promote these aims.

Mr BERINSON - Although time is so limited in the adjournment debate I must make one other comment. It has been suggested by some observers that if Israel is now suffering heavy and painful losses this 'serves her right' to put it crudely for not co-operating earlier on the return of occupied territories and the re-establishment of the pre-1967 boundaries. To that, 2 things should be said. In the first place a ferocious surprise attack as launched last week, if sprung from the pre-1967 borders, would by now have had Egyptian and Syrian troops fighting in Tei Aviv rather than still on their own soil. To that extent unless this war is followed by a real and genuine peace its only result will be to confirm Israeli determination to hold onto every single inch of land they can. More than that, given the general absence of support for Israel when faced as she now is with the staggering odds of men and material against her, who will be left in a position to moralise about it? Until today, no one; on the basis of today's news, the United States alone. Mr Speaker, my time is approaching expiry. I seek leave to have the short balance of my prepared speech incorporated in Hansard.

Mr SPEAKER - This is a most unusual practice, but the honourable member for Perth has given me the rest of his speech, which I have read. It does not infringe Standing Orders. Is leave granted for the rest of the speech to be incorporated? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The remainder of the speech read as follows) -

But secondly and more important, what on earth can lead anyone to believe that a return to the pre-1967 borders would be an end of the matter. Can memories be so short that it is already forgotten that the 6-day war broke out because the Arab States did not accept the 1967 borders? Many of us will have seen an advertisement by a group called the Friends of Palestine in yesterday's 'Australian' and heard its spokesman interviewed on radio later.

In response to the direct question: 'Doesn't your program simply amount to the dismemberment of Israel', the spokesman was at least honest enough to say 'Yes'.

The Arab States are now proclaiming a more limited goal for the war they have launched but their earlier statements and actions indicate clearly enough that their real goal is precisely in line with the views of the Friends of Palestine, that is, the utter elimination of a sovereign State. This leaves Israel in the greatest peril and explains her monumental efforts and sacrifice in self defence. It also explains her readiness, repeatedly stated but continually spurned, to enter into direct negotiations for peace, without preconditions and at any time or place. It is a time for her friends to declare themselves if only to put a brake on the ambitions of the countries attacking her - to declare support when it is warranted; to apportion responsibility where it lies. Even if the rituals of diplomacy are bruised in the process that would seem to be a small price indeed to pay.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! It being 11 o'clock, the House stands adjourned until 11.30 a.m. tomorrow.

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