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Monday, 22 May 2017
Page: 4755

Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (18:21): It gives me great pleasure to rise to speak on the motion of the member for Goldstein. I associate myself with his comments and with those of the member for Canning. I commend the member for Isaacs and the member for Fowler on the good faith they have shown in this debate.

The points raised by the member for Goldstein in his motion are very true. We know that Israel is a legitimate, democratic state and a good, strong ally of Australia. It is a democratic state, a beacon in an area where democracy is the exception rather than the rule. We know that Australia and Israel have a unique relationship, supported by a commitment to the rights and liberty of their citizens, the rule of law and a pluralist society underpinned by mutual respect. Our ties go back to the Battle of Beersheba. I have been to Israel and I have seen the famous statue that was built there. In fact, the light horse that fought in Beersheba came originally from my electorate of Hughes, down in Remount Park, originally in Holsworthy.

If we are going to discuss Israel, we need to do so in a bipartisan way. The member for Goldstein is right to raise the concern that some members of the Left, particularly in New South Wales, are threatening bipartisan support for the two-state solution in Israel. That is something that I hope we can avoid in this parliament, because if we all want to see the peace process in the Middle East advance, the best way to do that is by contributing what we in Australia can in a bipartisan way.

This debate is very timely. As we speak, the US President, President Trump, is probably a few hours away from arriving in Tel Aviv for his historic visit. President Trump has referred to settling the Israel-Palestine conflict as being the ultimate deal. We know that many have tried to settle it, and many have failed. We can only wish President Trump all the best in his endeavours. The US President gave a speech in Saudi Arabia, recently. He said:

For many centuries the Middle East has been home to Christians, Muslims and Jews living side-by-side. We must practice tolerance and respect for each other once again—and make this region a place where every man and woman, no matter their faith or ethnicity, can enjoy a life of dignity and hope.

In that spirit, after concluding my visit in Riyadh, I will travel to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and then to the Vatican—visiting many of the holiest places in the three Abrahamic Faiths. If these three faiths can join together in cooperation, then peace in this world is possible—including peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I will be meeting with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Already we have seen the Israelis, because of President Trump's visit, make some concessions, and they have been reported as making a concession of including increased building permits for Palestinians living in Area C of the West Bank—a part of the West Bank which is under full control of Israel. They have also allowed the opening of the Allenby Bridge, which is a crossing between the West Bank and Jordan, for 24 hours a day and the development of West Bank industrial zones near Jenin.

If we can have good faith from both sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, in this dispute, if there is a chance that the peace process can be restarted, if it can be kicked off by President Trump, if he can urge the Israelis to restrict their settlements in the West Bank and if he can urge the Palestinians to give some concessions and recognise the legitimacy of the Israeli state, there may be a chance—a chance that we all must pray and hope for—that in the coming years we will see a permanent two-state solution to this conflict. That would be one of the greatest peace dividends that this world could have.