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Monday, 1 December 2014
Page: 13789

Ms O'DWYER (Higgins) (11:48): Mr Acting Deputy Speaker—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Randall ): No, we are all Deputy Speaker.

Ms O'DWYER: Deputy Speaker, I apologise.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: We are all Deputy Speaker; there is no-one acting.

Ms O'DWYER: Okay. This debate comes at a worrying time in the Middle East, as we hope for a peaceful agreement between Israel, the Palestinian people and the wider Arab states. There are justifiable pronouncements that we are witnessing the start of a third Palestinian intifada. I was horrified by the recent mutilation of five Israelis, including a Druze policeman, who were butchered in the recent attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem. This follows the hostilities over our winter between Israel and Hamas. The hostilities saw Hamas terrorising the citizens of Israel through their bombardment of towns and cities. Innocent adults and children were killed and maimed on both sides as a result of Hamas purposefully firing from civilian areas and even United Nations schools and hospitals.

Despite 20 years of attempts to reach a final status solution between Israel and the Palestinian people, the Australian government continues to call on all parties to work through negotiations to achieve a peaceful and secure solution for all Israelis and the Palestinians. I respect Ms Vamvakinou, and I believe that she is very sincere in aiming for a true and peaceful solution. But it is my view that this motion does not achieve that.

The twenty-ninth day of November should really be a happy day for the entire region. If we go back in history, 29 November 1947 was the day that the United Nations voted for the petition plan recognising both the future state of Israel and a Palestinian-Arab state. While Israel accepted the proposal, the Arab nations refused to accept any proposal that recognised a Jewish-Israeli state and then went to war with all that followed.

In order to achieve peace, we need to encourage both sides to take positive steps that can achieve peace for all. I am fortunate that I have visited Israel twice, and I have seen how Israel is trying to achieve this. I have also visited the city of Ramallah on two separate occasions. During my time visiting Israel I saw a united Jerusalem where, since 1967, all religions have been able to live in the city and visit their holy sites safely and peacefully—a situation that was not the case prior to that date. I saw a successful, democratic country where all citizens were treated equally. There were Arab members of the Israeli Knesset, Palestinians attending Israeli universities and the wounded from Syria being treated in Israeli hospitals. I saw a place where women are treated equally. I saw a place where sexuality does not define you and where gay people can live their lives knowing that they are protected by the law. I also know that most Israeli politicians, including Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu, appreciate a Palestinian state.

On the issue of a blockade of Gaza, it is my view that the facts do not align with an idea that there is somehow a medical and food aid blockade. This is simply not the case. Medical and food aid continue to be allowed by Israel into Gaza. Even the granddaughter of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was transferred from Gaza to an Israeli hospital for treatment this year. However, over the years, Hamas has also imported into Gaza building materials which were then used to build terror tunnels to attack Israeli citizens rather than to build homes and schools for their residents.

I am very concerned about the way in which Israel and the Jewish people are portrayed in Palestinian schools and on television shows—an education which encourages continued hatred and denial of Israel's very right to exist. It is my view that the continued hatred of Israel, encouraged by the Palestinian leadership, is one of the real obstacles to the ongoing peace process. I do not believe, though, that this represents the true nature of the Palestinian people. Peace in the Middle East will only be achieved by all the parties negotiating a mutually equitable outcome. I continue to call on all parties to show restraint and hope that Israelis and the Palestinians can live in peace and security through a negotiated two-state solution.

Debate adjourned.