Meeting with Australian Palestinian Advocacy Organisation
On November 6, 2003, I had the great pleasure as NSW Premier to award the Sydney Peace Prize to Palestinian academic and human rights campaigner Hanan Ashrawi.
This award recognised Dr Ashrawi’s relentless advocacy for the cause of human rights and her persistent efforts to progress the seemingly intractable Middle East peace process.
I welcomed Dr Ashrawi, “As one who condemns the delusions that feed violence – as one who speaks out against fundamentalisms – and as one who has made enemies on all sides in the quest for the long-awaited peace.”
In the same speech I made the point that:
The Palestinians have no homeland. Israel has no peace. In one fact…lies the solution to the other. It will not happen in the next hundred days. It may not happen in the next five years. But a beginning must be made. It cannot happen unless the violence stops.”
I further went on to say:
Violence only ever serves to retard the Palestinian cause. Israel will never consent to the creation of a Palestinian state under the duress of terror. You cannot bomb your way to statehood. You cannot bomb your way to peace.
So there must be an end to bloodshed and terror. And competing tribal narratives of victimhood.
Peace continues to elude us, but its cause is one we remain absolutely committed to.
This week, I met representatives of the Australian Palestinian Advocacy Group, including its President Reverend James Barr, to discuss these challenges.
In the meeting, I outlined Australia’s support for a negotiated, two-state solution and our practical support for the right of the Palestinian people for their own state.
This support is substantive. Just last month I met the Commissioner General of the UNRWA, the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees, to sign a $90 million, five year partnership agreement. This is part of a $300 million program aimed to help Palestinian efforts to build the institutions of statehood.
But this is only half of the equation.
Israel has a right to peace and security. Australia’s support for Israel’s legitimate security concerns and Israel’s right to self-defence is steadfast.
The Australian Government consistently calls on both sides to avoid unilateral provocations, including rocket attacks from Gaza and Israeli settlement construction.
In August of this year I will visit Israel and the Palestinian Territories. And I look forward to meeting Israelis and Palestinians committed to peace and a two-state solution and again crossing paths with my friend Dr Ashrawi.