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Middle East Crisis – Question Time, Parliament House (November 19, 2012)

November 20, 2012

The Australian Government is gravely concerned by the escalating crisis in the Middle East.

We deeply regret the loss of life and injuries to civilians on both sides.

We condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from Gaza.

These attacks must end.

We recognise Israel has the right to defend itself.

We do, however, urge both sides to do all they can to resolve the current crisis peacefully.

Over the weekend there has been extensive diplomatic activity across the globe in an effort to calm this situation.

Egypt in particular is playing a critical role.

Egypt wields significant influence in the region and has successfully brokered ceasefires between Hamas and Israel in the past.

Today I met Egypt’s Ambassador to Australia — Dr El-Laithy.

I conveyed to him Australia’s full support for Egypt’s efforts to broker a ceasefire.

We acknowledge the visit to Gaza on November 16 by Egyptian Prime Minister Qandil and strongly support his call for a truce.

We welcome the endorsement by the President of Israel, Shimon Peres, of Egypt’s efforts to end the current crisis.

UN Secretary-General Ban will visit Egypt for talks with President Morsi, possibly as early as tomorrow.

The UN Security Council met over the weekend in a closed door emergency meeting and will likely meet again over coming days.

Arab League Foreign Ministers met in an emergency meeting in Cairo on November 17.

The League plans to send a delegation to Gaza tomorrow and we encourage it to focus efforts on de-escalating this conflict.

On my visit to the region in August I underlined to the Israeli and Palestinian leadership the need to return to negotiations and refrain from actions that undermine prospects for peace.

The only way to achieve peace is through a negotiated two state solution with a secure Israel living alongside a future independent Palestinian state.

In this crisis, it is critical for all sides to exercise restraint, take all steps to protect the lives of civilians and move to end this conflict.

Yesterday the President of the United States, Barack Obama, said: “If we see a further escalation of the situation in Gaza, then the likelihood of us getting back on any kind of peace track … is going to be pushed off way into the future.”

On Saturday the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade activated its 24 hour Crisis Centre to monitor developments and assist Australians in the region.

The Department continues to advise that Australians should not travel to Gaza and surrounding areas.

Australians in Gaza should remain in a secure location indoors, monitor the media for information and contact the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Australians in Israel are advised to continue to exercise a high degree of caution.

They should monitor local media and official announcements, and follow instructions of local authorities.

If any Australians have concerns for the welfare of family and friends they should first attempt to contact them directly.

If unsuccessful, they should call the Department’s Consular Emergency Centre within Australia or overseas.

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4 Comments
  1. November 20, 2012 11:01 am

    I can understand why the Australian Government wants to explicitly condemn Hamas rocket attacks. I wonder why the Government isn’t also explicitly condemning the Israeli bombings of Gaza, including of Government infrastructure and so many civilian causalities? Israel has the 5th largest military in the world, surely we must be holding them to account with what they do with it?

  2. November 20, 2012 2:15 pm

    Dear Bob Carr

    It is fortunate that you post this media release on your blog, which enables citizens to express their views, so, thank you for that. I would like to make some challenging comments, though. Firstly, this media release reads as though most of it was drafted in Washington, that these are not necessarily your own views, but those of the Gillard government. It has a kind of ‘on message’ ring about it, as Tony Blair would say. In short, it perfectly mirrors the highly scripted comments from US President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. It is stilted, wooden, unoriginal and false.

    The point I make is that you studiously (not carelessly) avoided mention of the fact that Gazan rockets are very inaccurate and do not constitute a really serious threat to Israel, mainly an annoyance. I wish they wouldn’t do it, but I can’t say they can be blamed for desperately trying some form of resistance to their intolerable incarceration.

    Nothing could possibly warrant the scale and intensity of attack that Israel has launched on Gaza by air and sea. In fact, we know it is not the rockets because the planning for this operation has taken many months and the timing is impeccable. Obama has just been elected and Netanyahu is in the process of impressing his electorate.You did not mention the siege that Israel has maintained for a number of years and has cost a large number of lives, most of those have been vulnerable people. Nor did you mention the number of incursions the IDF has previously made into Gaza. I am sure you have details of every one of these. Whilst I regret any loss of life, especially that of civilians, on either side; the deaths in Israel stand at three while the deaths in Gaza are now over 100. It would have reassured Australians, some of whom are Palestinians, many others who are sympathetic to Palestinians’ plight, if you had shown compassion for Gaza’s civilians, but you made a deliberate point of not saying anything about this matter.

    In your position of Foreign Minister of Australia, having made the claim that we are an exemplary nation that was awarded a temporary seat of the UN Security Council, you would not be short of advice on international law. The fact is that it is illegal to carry out most of the military operations that Israel is undertaking. Evidence is being meticulously gathered in Gaza and the overwhelming majority of targets are indeed the civilians who are being hit. Two thoughts come to mind. One of these concerns the comments from Gilad Sharon, who said that Gaza should be levelled. That looks very much like an accurate description of what is being carried out. We are still waiting to see if a truce can be mounted before the ground assault is ordered in. That assault will probably be the completion of Sharon’s wish. I am sure you know this. You should endeavour to assert Australia’s good offices and prevail on Israel’s government to step back and avoid further needless bloodshed.

    Last time there was an assault on Gaza of a comparable scale we had the Goldstone Report which was highly critical of Israel’s refusal to co-operate and of the disproportionate military excesses perpetrated by Israeli forces. The Israeli government, with help from the US government, got that report rejected at great personal cost to Justice Richard Goldstone. This will not be allowed to be repeated. Too many people around the world are protesting what is happening. When we have all the evidence that may well demonstrate this assault was a major war crime your letter is going to look very insincere and rather foolish. I think you and the Australian government should dwell a bit more on that and express some more convincing compassion.

    Regards
    Willy Bach

  3. Ross Chambers permalink
    November 20, 2012 2:47 pm

    Here;s a real chance to help, with more than bromides Bob: <> John Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago. London Review of Books 16 November, 2012 ==================================================== UN, 29 November, 2012 How about standing up and voting as Australia, not as some client of the USA?

  4. November 22, 2012 2:26 am

    Dear Senator Carr – much of what you say makes sense. However, I am deeply disappointed to hear Barack Obama’s line trotted out that “Israel has a right to defend itself”, and that the rockets from Gaza must stop.Of course they should stop, but so should the bombs from the Israeli side. This narrow strip of land is like a prison for the Palestinians. Before each Israeli election, the bombs start flying. It is a totally unequal situation. what must stop is the siege of Gaza. What must also stop is blind support for Israel. Let us support a peace process, and start talking again about recognition for Palestine at the UN, and for a two-state outcome. I have a very bad feeling that if Israel continues to get support from the west, it will bolster its ground war intentions, and then the U.S. might get dragged into another all-out war, and presto, we’d be in there with them. Please, please don’t let that happen. but after what you & Stephen Smith agreed to at the AUSMIN talks (details of which we’d like to know, even if we’re not consulted about them in advance), I have noconfidence that we will EVER stay out of U.S. wars in the future. did you know that since U.S. Independence…. i.e. 236 years, there have been only 20 years in which that country has not been at war? Not a very good ally for a country which has the best natural defences in the world, and no natural enemies!

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