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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 1498


Senator SIM (Western Australia) - I start where Senator Willesee ended and add the tribute of the Opposition to Sir Laurence Mclntyre whose skilled diplomacy no doubt was a major influence in the United Nations. I am quite sure that the Opposition would wish me to state that. On behalf of the Liberal and Country Party Opposition I have circulated a foreshadowed amendment. I do not think that it differs in substance a great deal from that of the Government. It differs mainly in emphasis. I also agree with the Special Minister of State, Senator Willesee, when he says that this is not the time for recriminations and the apportionment of blame, beyond making a general comment: We all recognise and accept that we have the possibility of a cease fire. We accept the statement of Senator Willesee that we cannot expect a cease fire in the situation that exists to be enforced immediately. We only hope that it will be enforced.

The amendment which I have circulated reflects the present position. The motion which was moved by Senator Kane on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party reflected the position that existed some weeks ago. That same position does not exist today. We noted that both the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) and the Deputy Leader made reference to the situation in the Middle East having within it all the possibilities of a world war. Indeed, it had. A miscalculation by either of the great powers involved- the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics- could easily have brought about a world war. It may well have been that, in the situation we have faced over the past several weeks, the unfortunate and unsettled domestic situation in the United States could have brought about a miscalculation. We have to be thankful that it did not. Therefore, today we face a situation in which there is- I do not think it is too strong a term to use- an unstable cease fire at the moment.

As Senator Willesee said, the situation represents hope. We must all be optimistic. One of the great hopeful signs in the long term is that the Arabs no longer smart under humiliating defeat. Perhaps today we have a military stalemate. From that may well develop the willingness on both sides to reach an agreement. But we cannot expect that the years of bitterness and dispute can be solved in a matter of days, weeks or months. The Middle East- I think that Senator Willesee spoke of this- is one of the world 's most unstable but vital areas. I do not wish to pursue this debate by speaking on the general instability of the Middle East and the reasons for its instability. But I mention that there is an increasing nationalism amongst the Arab countries and indications of increasing strong-arm oil diplomacy being exercised by these countries in pursuit of political ambitions. This in itself must create instability.

We recognise that one-third of the world 's oil is produced in the Middle East and two-thirds of the world 's oil reserves are in the Middle East. One can imagine how those countries will try to exercise their oil strength, if I may use that phrase, to bring pressure to bear on the United States of America to cease support for Israel. This will be done indirectly because America, I think, is dependent for only 8 per cent of her oil requirements at the moment on the Middle East. But Japan is dependent for 90 per cent of her requirements and Europe for some 50 or 60 per cent of its requirements on this area. Therefore, there was some element of strong-arm oil diplomacy in pursuit of political objectives. We must recognise this in itself as being a pretty dangerous policy. We can hope only that the Arab powers will not continue to threaten instability and world stability by pursuing this type of policy.

The second reason why I think that this is a matter of immediate concern is the existence and the integrity of the state of Israel. We wish in our amendment to express on behalf of the Opposition clearly the view that Israel exists as a state and her existence must be recognised. I recognise that the Government has said this. We would wish the Senate to express it in clear unequivocal terms. But we believe that the existence of Israel, the recognition of her existence as a state and the instability brought about by the Arab states engaging in strong-arm oil diplomacy cannot be divorced one from the other. Perhaps I should also mention before dealing more specifically with the amendment the strategic importance of the Middle East to the world. It sits astride almost the whole of the communications between Europe and this part of the world. One should also mention the political uncertainty that exists in the Middle East and particularly in the Persian Gulf area where there exists between the Arab states long standing disputes over borders and jurisdiction.

One should recognise also that internal changes are taking place in these countries. They are moving away from the strong conservative rule of the past. As the people become more subject to outside pressures and their new wealth is bringing more affluence to them we find that this is not increasing the internal political stability of the countries but is creating internal political instability. We have had a number of examples of this during recent times. The issues that divide the Arab world are almost as great as the issues that unite it. Of course, one issue that unites it is its opposition to and hatred for the state of Israel. The realities of life make it inevitable that the State of Israel exists. Before there can be an enduring peace and stability in the Middle East that fact must be accepted. We believe that this is a cardinal factor in the issue of peace or war in the Middle East. We re-affirm, in our foreshadowed amendment, the right of all states in the Middle East to exist within defensible and recognised boundaries, free from external threat and we call on the Australian Government to use its influence to ensure that negotiations are based on Israel's right to existence within defensible and recognised boundaries.

This brings me to the great issue of the present conflict. I refer to Resolution 242 of the United Nations. It is quite clear, to me anyway, that if Israel withdrew to its recognised frontiers, these frontiers would not be defensible. As long as Israel felt that it was under threat and there were continuing threats to its existence as a state, and as long as the Arab states were being massively armed and were showing an expressed willingness to use those arms, I believe that Israel felt, and justly felt, that it must have defensible borders which gave it room to manoeuvre in case of surprise attack. If the surprise attack had begun behind its recognised borders this time Israel may not have existed today. I think the first condition of peace must be an acceptance that Israel has a right to exist, that the Arab states must accept that fact and that Israel must be free from continued external threat.

This raises another question. I am bound to mention it. I do not mention it in recrimination. I mention it as a fact of life. We talk about being even handed. I respect the Government's attitude of being even handed. Perhaps I am not as even handed in my attitude to the Middle East conflict as it is. I note that both the Soviet Union and the United States were criticised together for the supply of arms. It is rather like the position when somebody pushes a burglar into a house; the next door neighbour rushes in to help the householder and he is found as guilty as the man who broke into the house. The Middle East war would not have occurred this time if it had not been for the massive Soviet Russian support of the Arab states.


Senator O'Byrne - That is not being even handed.


Senator SIM - I do not pretend to be even handed. I said that I would be less even handed than the Government. This is a fact which cannot be denied. It is no use being pious about it. It is no use throwing up our hands and trying to ignore it. It is a fact. The Soviet supplied not only massive armour but also the most modern weapons. It is noteworthy that it was reported within 2 or 3 days of the attack on Israeli positions along the Suez Canal that the Russian advisers military personnel returned home from Egypt. The United States, only when it was faced with Israel suffering attrition of its armour and weapons and with Russia beginning a massive airlift to supply the Arab states, began its very significant re-supply of Israel. I believe that this should be said and accepted. I do not accept that a even handed policy blames the United States to the same degree as it blames the Soviet Union for the war in the Middle East.

It is very easy to express pious hopes in resolutions. The world cannot continue to live with this threat. Probably a chance exists now with goodwill on all sides to try to find a durable solution. It may well be that the only solution in the short and immediate terms will be a very significant peace keeping force to provide a buffer between the Arab states and Israel until such time as tempers cool, bitterness becomes a good deal less and a settlement is reached. People say: 'What is the cost of a peace keeping force?' The cost of a peace keeping force would be minimal compared with the cost of war. It would be minimal compared with the cost of a war which lasted 14 days. Negotiations are possible only on the basis that Israel's existence behind defensible and recognised borders is guaranteed. Without that guarantee there can be no lasting and durable peace in the Middle East.

We also believe- it is referred to in our foreshadowed amendment- that there must be an understanding and an agreement between the 2 major powers concerned, the Soviet Union and the United States of America, that they will ensure that there is no massive rearmament and that they will adopt an even handed policy on both sides to ensure that peace is maintained. I regret to say it, but peace will be possible, regardless of the Security Council of the United Nations, only when these 2 major powers agree. There is an obligation on other powers not to fish in troubled waters. I recall a recent 'Four Corners' program, 1 think it was, which showed terrorists from Lebanon and elsewhere who had been trained in China and who were armed with Chinese weapons to carry out these outrageous acts of terrorism against innocent people throughout the world. We in this country have not been free of this threat. There is an obligation on other countries, including China, not to cause trouble and not to fish in troubled waters by training and supplying these people, if there is to be peace and trust in this area.

Senator Willeseementioned the refugee problem. We mention it in our foreshadowed amendment. I think the solution of this problem is basic to any lasting settlement. The refugee problem must be solved. One cannot help but feel that the Arab states have been using these unfortunate people as a sort of shop window. There has not been by the Arab states a genuine effort to solve the refugee problem. It is not only a problem for the Arabs; it is a world problem. I hope that Australia will take a leading part in offering to help solve this problem. We could play a prominent part by offering generous financial support, in common with other countries, to solve this dreadful problem. It must be solved before there can be peace in the Middle East. I have spoken, I think, in a low key. United Nations Resolution 242 refers to the acquisition of territory by war. I speak for myself, but my sympathy is with Israel. I do not think we could have logically or rationally expected Israel to give up this territory which it believed and which many believed was essential for its defence and was proved essential for its defence, until such time as there was a settlement. Admittedly there has been intransigence on all sides. Do not let us apportion the blame too much to one side. There has been intransigence on all sides. It is very easy for us, in the relative security of Australia, to be critical. 1 have tried to put myself in Israel's position. Maybe I would have been as intransigent as Israel was. We only hope that out of this will come a greater desire to solve a problem which so far has proved to be insoluble.

We believe that the amendment which we have foreshadowed and circulated faces up to the realities of the situation. It may express pious hopes but within its terms, I believe, are the essential ingredients for a settlement. The other essential and most important ingredient for a settlement is the willingness on both sides to come to an agreement which respects the territorial integrity of Israel and respects the rights and integrity of all other countries in the region. Reaching a settlement will not be easy, but recriminations will not do any good today. This is why we prefer the terms of the amendment we have moved to the Government's amendment rather than the terms of the motion moved a fortnight ago by the Australian Democratic Labor Party which does apportion blame although at the time the motion was moved that may have been fair enough. If this debate does anything at all, I hope that it expresses the wish of this Parliament to see in the Middle East a peace that recognises, as I said earlier, the existence of the state of Israel and the rights and integrity of the other countries in the region.







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