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Thursday, 25 October 1973

Senator WILLESEE -The Australian Democratic Labor Party is apportioning blame because in its motion it is saying that it was the Arabs who caused the war.

Senator Byrne - Senator, wouldyou be good enough to read our resolution?

Senator WILLESEE -Just a moment. You have amended it 3 times. We do not see any hope at all in apportioning blame to anybody. That situation will not bring about peace. Over the years both the previous Government and this Government have assiduously moved away from this situation and not apportioned blame. We have tried to get to a situation where both sides will recognise the sovereignty of each other. Resolution 242 has again been endorsed by the situation which has arisen. So both sides, at least to some degree, have agreed with it and it seems that until something better comes along this is the resolution that we ought to hang on to. The other day the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said in the House of Representatives that the Australian Government is committed to the sovereignty of Israel.

However, the question of the ultimate boundaries between the various states in the area will have to be worked out at the negotiations envisaged in the ceasefire resolution of 22 October. Throughout all this conflict, when people could very well have lost their heads, this Government has tried to maintain our situation. We are neutral in the conflict. We are trying to be evenhanded with the countries with which we have friendly relations. By doing this we think that it is the best thing for Australia because our interests are better preserved this way and, also, it is the best we can do for peace in the Middle East. The essential thing after there is a ceasefire is to make sure that in the negotiations both sides realise that they just cannot go back to a stalemate of 6 years and sit on a situation again. I would not think that they would want to because, as I repeat, they surely realise by now- as they should have realised over the years- that time was not on their side.

Senator Little - In Korea they have not got peace yet. They still have only a ceasefire.

Senator WILLESEE - If Senator Little says that we ought to wait over 20 years as we have in Korea -

Senator Little - I am only reminding the honourable senator of the fact that when communism gets in that is what happens.

Senator WILLESEE -If Senator Littlewants to recommend that we should wait 20 years in the Israeli-Arab conflict, I think he will find that he is dealing with something which can very quickly get out of hand. This is the situation which they must not be allowed to get back to. I am dealing with the Arab-Israeli case. I am not dealing with the Korean case. I am not dealing with any of the other cases which Senator Little likes to drag across the track as red herrings. If Senator Little wants to deal with the Korean case then let him introduce it. What his Party has done on this occasion is to move a motion in relation to the Middle East and that is what I am dealing with. A little while ago Senator Byrne raised the matter of the recognition of Israel as if it were thought about for the first time. Resolution 242 states clearly that all nations in that area must be recognised and that their sovereignty must be recognised. I repeat, the 3 essentials as I see them are that the Arab countries have to recognise Israel; the Israelis must withdraw from the occupied territories- and no wonder, because if people are sitting in your backyard it will be a continuing source of conflct- and above all the Palestinians -

Senator Hannan - What about South Vietnam?

Senator WILLESEE -I am dealing with the Middle East. The honourable senator should get off South Vietnam and Korea. His Party introduces a motion here and then starts to run away from the situation. We are dealing with a tremendously serious situation but the honourable senator seems incapable of facing up to that fact. The previous Government was sensible enough to play this correctly. We are following in its footsteps by bringing the situation up to date with the things that are imposed on us from outside. As I was saying, the third thing that must be respected is the question of the Palestinians. This morning in answer to Senator McManus I said that if there were any recent developments I would bring them to his attention this afternoon. But looking at the paper that has been prepared for me I cannot see anything very new. He would be well aware of what has happened in relation to arguments as to where troops are. I do not think that is all that important in the question of a ceasefire. But United Nations observers are moving in, particularly on the Canal front. For what it is worth I suppose it is a good thing that they are able to go in. I do not know what happens if a war breaks out. I suppose they report it. But at least they are in the position of being able to move into this area.

I have said a couple of times that I am an optimist in this situation. I suppose that in the field of foreign affairs if one is not an optimist as one looks around the world then one had better get out. If we look at the elements which we have going for us, there always has been the problem of the Egyptians and the Arab countries saying clearly and definitively that they respect the right of Israel to exist. Early this week President Sadat made a quite unequivocal statement which has been repeated in many leading articles around the world that he was not interested in destroying Israel; he was interested in regaining the territories which had been taken from him. Some people will say that they do not believe him. Of course they will. But, after all, we can only start in very small measures. We can have a ratchet effect by grabbing something and moving on to the next stage. Sadat has said this. I read it very carefully. He has said it unequivocally. If this is something on which we can hang a peg then we have achieved something which we had not achieved before. Of course Israel, on the other side, has to agree to substantially withdraw and move away from the territories it is occupying. At the same time, both sides have to recognise the Palestinian situation.

I had tried not to go too far into the history of this situation but merely to show the stage to which both governments have been led because of the situation. In spite of optimism, there is no doubt that the area is the greatest danger spot in the world. When two of the super powers are arming both sides, that is potentially dangerous. Mollifying that effect has been the fact that the super powers have been able to keep talking whilst it has been going on. From time to time I have noticed Australians pressing- rightly so because an Australian is President of the Security Council this month- for us to do more. Sir Laurence Mclntyre has done something about this. I quote briefly from an evening newspaper that was given to me just before I came into the Senate chamber. The article was written by another Australian- Randal Heymanson- who has lived in New York for about 26 years. He says:

Only the calmness and impartiality of the president of the United Nations Security Council. Australia's Sir Laurence Mclntyre kept the impassioned and angry debates on the ArabIsraeli war from explosion. Under a more excitable or partisan president the worst might have happened. Sir Laurence, a effacing man of few words, displayed a dignity and restraint which was not without its influence on the disputants.

I read those words for the benefit of people who do not know Sir Laurence. For those of us who know him, there is no need for us even to read the article.

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