“THE ISRAEL HAS THE RIGHT TO LIVE IN PEACE RALLY”
MONDAY, 17 JULY 2006
Today is a rally for democracy. Today is a rally for freedom. Today is a rally for the rule of law. We gather today to show our support for the State of Israel and its citizens. We are gathered here as friends of Israel, as citizens of a nation that always has been and always will be a friend of Israel. And Israel needs its friends.
From Gaza in the south and Lebanon to the north, Israel is under attack. Since Wednesday Israel has been attacked by 1,400 missiles. Israel did not provoke these attacks. They come from parties that are called by various names. But we here today know exactly what they are. They are terrorists. They are criminals. And Israel has every right to defend itself against them.
I have to say, there has been insufficient recognition of Israel’s efforts, made in good faith, to further the cause of peace in the Middle East. Despite withdrawing from Lebanon 6 years ago, Hezbollah terrorists from within Lebanon continue to launch aggressive assaults on Israel’s sovereign territory. And despite withdrawing from Gaza last year, Israel continues to come under attack almost daily from rockets fired from Palestinian terrorists linked to Hamas.
We all need to remind the community that Israel is being attacked from within the borders of two territories which Israel does not occupy. It is being attacked from within two territories over which Israel makes no claim. It is being attacked from within two territories from which it has withdrawn. Hamas in Gaza cannot claim to have been resisting or fighting an occupier. Hezbollah in Lebanon cannot claim to be resisting or fighting an occupier.
Israel is being attacked from within the boundaries of two territories that claim to be democracies. If the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Lebanon are the true democracies they claim to be, then they will take action to stop the attacks, to stop the abductions. If they are true democracies they will enforce the rule of law within their territories, they will cease to feign an incapacity to act. All that is required of Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority to enforce the rule of law is the will to do so.
In conflicts, facts actually do matter. We know the violence in the region commenced with the attacks on Israel by Hamas and Hezbollah. The Government of Israel has a right to defend itself, but more than that, the Government of Israel has an obligation to protect its citizens. To fail to do so would be a dereliction of its duty. Israel’s targeted military response is legitimate.
The Prime Minister wanted me to tell you in clear terms that the Australian Government condemns the taking of hostages for political purposes and calls for Israeli Defence Force hostages to be released unconditionally. The rocket attacks must cease.
We all hope and pray for the speedy resolution of this crisis and the safe return of the captured soldiers. And it is crucial that the international community support Israel’s efforts to recover its citizens and endeavours to resolve the issue. All parties must accept Israel’s right to exist in peace with its neighbours.
Israel is a beacon of hope and liberty in the Middle East. It is a great and robust democracy. The people of Israel are free and will always be free. And the people of Australia will always stand by them.