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Challenges in the Middle East: Speech to United Israel Appeal: Melbourne, Victoria: 5 April 2006.
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, AUSTRALIA
5 April 2006
Speech to United Israel Appeal (Melbourne, Victoria)
Challenges in the Middle East Sir Zelman and Lady Cowen, Ambassador for Israel, His Excellency Naftali Tamir and Mrs Daphne Tamir, Mr Ze'ev Bielski, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and Caron Bielski, Mark Leibler, World Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Keren Hayesod - UIA , and Rosanna, Greg Masel, Director-General, Keren Hayesod, Jack Smorgon Chairman and President of UIA Victoria, Mark Blankfield, Event ChairmanFederal and State Members of Parliament, Michael Danby, Helen Shardey, Tony LuptonCommunal Leaders, Rabbis, ladies and gentlemen
Thank you for the opportunity to address you this evening. And congratulations for putting on such a successful function. It is a testimony to the work of the United Israel Appeal and to your support of Israel generally that we have such a tremendous function here tonight with other 1000 people in attendance.
I salute the work of United Israel Appeal and the Jewish community generally.
I know from my visits to Israel over the years and my meetings with Israeli leaders that there is both deep respect and gratitude in Israel for the generous and unstinting support provided by the Jewish community in this country over many years. Tonight is another example of this.
I also note the enormous contribution that the Jewish community makes to Australia in all walks of life. This is a community that has preserved its distinctive Jewish characteristics, while at the same time making a remarkable contribution to Australian life.
Late last year, I addressed the New South Wales branch of the United Israel Appeal. I talked about the strength of the Australian-Israel relationship and how it has substantially evolved over the last ten years, particularly in regards to the position that Australia takes on United Nations resolutions.
In my remarks tonight, I'd like to take you through my thoughts on current events in the Middle East (which obviously directly impact upon Israel) and Australia's position on these issues.
I will briefly touch on the Australia-Israel relationship towards the end of my remarks.
It's never a quiet time in the Middle East, and the past few months have been no exception. Some say there is simply too much history in the region which means we can not expect anything but tumultuous times. After all, the Middle East is a region where three of the great world religions - Judaism, Islam and Christianity - have their holiest sites and where great empires and movements over history have met and overlapped.
But I am more optimistic. History is important, of course, but I am not one who believes that the past inevitably determines the future. One observation that I can make from my many visits to the countries of the region is that there is widespread hope and expectation for a better and more peaceful future.
Israel has shown that the liberal democratic model of society and government can be applied successfully in this part of the world, just as it has been applied in every other region. In my view, other countries in the Middle East would do well to look closely at the secret of Israel's success. The secret of her success is not material support from the Jewish diaspora - though it is undoubtedly appreciated.
Rather, in my view, it is the combination of a number of crucial elements: