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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 1494


Senator WILLESEE -I would think so. I think that resolution 242 is very important in the context of what will be .said in this debate. I will read two other short resolutions of the Security Council because there seems to have been some confusion about them- These resolutions were adopted in the Security Council on 22 and 23 October last. The first states:

The Security Council-

1.   Calls upon ali parties' to trie present fighting to cease all firing and terminate all military activity immediately, no later than 12. hours-after the moment of the adoption of this decision, in the positions they now occupy.

2.   Calls upon the 'parties concerned to start immediately after the, cease fire the implementation of SC resolution 242 in all of its parts

3.   Decides that immediately and concurrently with the cease fire, negotiations start between the parties concerned under appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.

That resolution was at first adhered to and then substantially broken. Of course, simultaneously while the Security Council was meeting, negotiations were going on between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America. The Security Council again met the following day and, referring to its resolution of 22 October, added these words:

1.   Confirms its decision on an immediate cessation of all kinds of firing and of all military action, and urges that the forces be returned to the positions they occupied at the moment the cease fire became effective.

2.   Requests the Secretary General to take measures for immediate dispatch of United Nations observers to supervise the observance of the cease-fire between the forces of Israel and the Arab Republic of Egypt, using for this purpose the personnel of the United Nations now in the Middle East and first of all the personnel now in Cairo.

I said a little while ago that I would read those resolutions because there appears to be some confusion about them, and I detected this confusion in the amendment which was moved by Senator Byrne a few minutes ago. That amendment contained these words: to enforce the United Nations cease fire proposal which is based on direct negotiations for a Middle East settlement between the Arab governments and Israel.

That is not what the resolutions said. Whether one thinks they ought to have said it or did not say it, the fact is that that was not what was said in those 2 resolutions. I do not think anyone underrates the seriousness, or certainly the potential seriousness, of a war in the Middle East. It is a problem with which we have been living over a long period of time.

I do not want to go deeply into the history of all this, 1 merely want to come as quickly as I can to the attitude of the Australian Government which, incidentally, follows on what the previous Government has done, but up-dating with the march of events. But I want to deal just very briefly with it to try to put this thing into perspective and to show why the Australian Government has been led logically step by step to the action it takes in support of the previous Government's attitude to the Middle East conflict. Ever since the 1967 resolution there have been unsuccessful attempts to bring it into effect; that is, to get the Israelis to withdraw and to get the Arab countries to recognise that there is a state of Israel, and in the course of that at long last to try to do something about the Palestinian refugees, a problem which I point out is mentioned by the word 'refugees' in the original resolution 242.

Continuing efforts were made but all of them have failed. It has always seemed to me that both sides should have realised that time was on neither side, that the longer this was allowed to carry on without any appreciable movement at all- in fact, I think I could delete the word 'appreciable' and say without any movement at all- then something like what has happened was always in danger of happening, either a preemptive strike from one side or the mounting of troops on the other. In fact, there has been a mounting of troops on both sides over these areas.

Resolution 242 said that the SecretaryGeneral should take action, and he did so through what was known as the Jarring Mission. Dr Gunnar Jarring worked in this area over a period of time but the whole thing broke down in 1 97 1 because in his opinion and in the opinion of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Israel had failed to respond to a questionnaire to it by Dr Jarring. On the other hand, Israel's objection was that Jarring had exceeded his mandate by seeking in the questionnaire a prior commitment by Israel to withdraw from Arab territory as part of a first step towards a settlement. Egypt in its response to Jarring had agreed to enter into a peace agreement with Israel on the basis of Security Council resolution 242 providing Israel gave certain reciprocal commitments including that it would withdraw from Sinai and the Gaza Strip. This was again going back to resolution 242 and it was at that stage that the whole efforts of the United Nations Security Council broke down which I suppose in retrospect, but certainly at the time, was another vicious spin of the wheel against what ought to be happening in the Middle East. Since the suspension of that mission activity has been going on to try to force this to a head.

Egypt made considerable efforts to generate international sympathy for the Arab cause and has increased pressure on the United Nations to provide a solution as the only alternative to further hostilities. Egypt requested a review of the situation in the Middle East by the Security Council following Israel 's raids on Beirut earlier this year. In the June-July sessions of the Security Council the review resulted in the drafting of a resolution by a group of non-aligned states deploring Israel's failure to withdraw from occupied territories. This was supported by all members of the Council including ourselves but was finally vetoed by the United Nations on the grounds that it was unbalanced and that it did not also incorporate a parallel reference to the right of all states in the area to live in peace within secure and recognised borders. Australia's attitude to this was that we supported the non-aligned states draft in July 1973 but it did not indicate any change in our policy of neutrality and friendly relations with both sides. While the resolution was far from ideal it was considered to be the best that could have been achieved in the current circumstances of world opinion which was turning away from Israel. At the same time it did not run counter to or seek to displace resolution 242. Moreover, our affirmative vote was intended to indicate Australia's support for the efforts of the international community in the Middle East and to reflect our view that the United Nations should be encouraged in its efforts to facilitate progress towards a peaceful settlement. We gave an explanation of our vote because we were not completely happy with the resolution as it stood and our explanation incorporated the precise language of resolution 242 regarding the right of states to live within secure and recognised boundaries. Australia's support of Israel 's right to exist as a state, which goes back to its vote in the General Assembly in 1948, is unchanged.

The question of Israel's ultimate boundaries and the nature of a final settlement lie in the hands of the parties concerned and must flow as in the Prime Minister's phrase 'from agreement freely arrived at between the parties in accordance with the principles of resolution 242'. A connected point will be the resolution of the problem of the Palestinian refugees whose continuing plight has long been a subject of deep and practical concern to Australia. It would be hoped that any settlement would take this problem into full account. In the circumstances of the Middle East the Australian Government's policy has been not to permit the supply of Australian arms to any of the countries involved in the dispute. Australia cannot of course dictate the policies of other countries but it has always believed that the restraint on the supply of arms by others would help to reduce the tension in the area.

I would like to finish this brief history, I suppose one might call it, by putting to the Senate the 2 sides as they have been presented in the world community. Egypt formally accepts resolution 242 although it has consistently stated that it will not enter into negotiations with Israel in the absence of an advance commitment by Israel to withdraw from all occupied Arab territory. In a statement in the June-July session of the Security Council Egypt's Foreign Minister strongly emphasised the principle of the inadmissibility of" the acquisition of territory by force and said that Egypt would never relinquish any territory. Israel's view has been that its acceptance of resolution 242 does not oblige it to withdraw from all territories occupied in 1967 but only to secure and defensible borders which would have to be negotiated and which would not be the pre- 1967 lines. This would involve retention of areas in the Sinai and the Golan Heights considered essential for its security.

I have tried to pick up briefly the salient points of the situation which bring us to the situation in which we find ourselves today. Incidentally, when this situation blew up the Australian Government immediately expressed its serious concern at the outbreak of further hostilities and of course, as all honourable senators know, the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations is the President of the Security Council for this month. We are worried about the loss of life. In view of the potential of these hostilities and the fact that two of the super powers are backing the respective sides concerned, it is fortunate that in spite of that, the detente that came about between the USSR and the US prior to this situation has proved to be an anchor in these very troubled times. They each started to supply both sides. In the old days as honourable senators can imagine, that would very quickly have blown up into a world war. But because of the detente or because of some other better considerations for each other, Russia and the United States were able at the same time to enter into negotiations to bring about a ceasefire as a preliminary towards peace talks.

We have welcomed the joint ceasefire resolution because obviously before we can get anywhere we have to have a ceasefire. It is disappointing that the first ceasefire broke down but, as I said this morning, in many ways this is an understandable situation. When there is an in situ ceasefire, inevitably troops are scattered. If a section of troops on one side is being sandwiched between 2 sides and if the 2 sides try to join up, naturally there will be hostilities in that area. I think that this is quite unavoidable in a war of this sort. The days of having a war where there was a straight line down the middle and where each side pulled up at the sides I think has gone for ever. This is not a situation in which I have completely lost hope. In fact, I am optimistic. Because of the seriousness of the situation, because of what the Security Council has been doing and because of the actions of the USSR and the USA, I believe that we have grounds for at least some optimism, if not now at least in the weeks to come. We have supported the Security Council resolutions because we see them as being an updating of the practical and meaningful situation for which resolution 242 stands. But one of the reasons why I would not like to see Senator Kane 's motion carried in any form, and particularly in the Senate, is because it seeks to apportion blame. The Australian Government does not think there is any mileage in this at all. There is a war on. It has been going on over all this time and the immediate thing is to stop the fighting. Another thing is not to return to the situation which we have had for 6 years but to do something better. We should not lay down these inescapable rules because no matter how much both sides might berate one another there can be no firm and lasting peace until those three propositions are put into effect and accepted.


Senator Byrne - Why does the honourable senator say that we apportion blame?







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