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Monday, 23 May 2011
Page: 4136

Mr KEENAN (Stirling) (21:01): I rise to support the motion moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and I do so as somebody who is a very strong supporter of the state of Israel, its right to exist and the fact that it is a shining beacon of democracy within the Middle East. Sadly, we see very few functioning democracies within that region. That is why it is very important for this House to acknowledge the importance to Australia of the bilateral relationship we have with Israel.

It is particularly important that we acknowledge it on the occasion of its 60th anniversary. As members of this House would well know, for those 60 years they have had a very difficult existence as their neighbours and many of the other countries within their region deny them the right to exist. Sadly, that denial of their rights, the denigration of the state of Israel, is often shared by those on the left—on the extreme left, in this case—of Australian politics. We have seen it in the support that the Greens councillors who occupy positions on Marrickville Council have given for a boycott of Israel.

It reflects something rather strange about sections of the more extreme left in Australia that they refuse to repudiate and attack the behaviour of opponents of Israel, who often behave in extraordinarily bad ways. In looking at the state of Israel, instead of—to use a biblical reference—looking at the log within their enemy's eyes they try to pick on the splinter within Israel's eye. Israel is clearly not a perfect state, but I believe it is a state that behaves in a way that I think Australians have much sympathy for.

I have had the opportunity to visit Israel. For a country that has really been in a state of war for the whole 60 years of its existence, what really struck me was the very vigorous internal debate within Israel about the way that they behave as a state, about the way that they behave with their neighbours, about the way that they respond to military provocation, about the way that they respond to attacks on their people and about the way that they respond to attacks on their territory. An extraordinarily vigorous debate occurs in Israel about what they believe is moral and right and about the way that they approach these issues.

The most extraordinary policy issues that are taken by the state of Israel are issues that actually involve life or death for Israeli citizens are contestable within the Israeli legal system and you have had members of the Israeli judiciary pass judgment on the behaviour of the Israeli military in times of war. That accompanied what was a very vigorous debate within Israel and amongst Israeli citizens—always checking themselves about whether they are behaving in a way that was appropriate for a democracy and for the country that I think all Israeli citizens hope for.

From comments that have been made in this House, and certainly from comments that have been made from this side of the House, we find very strong support for the state of Israel. I know that that support is certainly mirrored by most on the other side of the House—although not all. I think that all members of this House need to get together and say very strongly that Australia enjoys a strong bilateral relationship with Israel, that Australia acknowledges 60 very impressive years of the state of Israel. We need to acknowledge not only that they have survived in what is a very difficult and turbulent region but also that they have had an economic miracle within the state—lessons which I think Australia can learn from as well.

They liberalised very decisively within the 1980s and enjoyed rates of economic growth that I think are the envy of most countries, and certainly the envy of their neighbours. It makes me wonder whether, if their neighbours were to join with Israel in creating a peaceful solution to what of course is a very difficult political problem, everyone in the region could start to enjoy some of the dynamism that you see when you visit Israel. It is great that we can acknowledge the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel and the very strong relationship we have. (Time expired)