Australia’s ambassador to Israel supports peace campaign
According to recent polls, 67 percent of Israeli citizens support a political agreement with the Palestinians, however their voice is rarely heard. The campaign urges the public to voice their support for an agreement in order to strengthen the position of the Israeli government in signing an agreement by April 2014.
The One Million Hands campaign was initiated privately by three Israelis, who served in the IDF in combat units, each of them representing a spectrum of political views: Ziv Cohen, a landscape architect, is left wing, Dr Dror Ben-Ami, a zoologist, is traditionally right of centre and Guy Pross, an energy/infrastructure consultant, holds a centrist view.
Prior to hosting the launch of the new campaign Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma expressed his thoughts: “Any leader who is about to make a difficult or risky decision needs to know that the people are behind and supportive of him/her. Support from the majority of the Israeli public for an agreement will enhance civic awareness and demonstrate to all politicians that this issue should be prioritized.
“The agreement signed with Iran in Geneva should not affect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians”, explains Sharma.
‘One Million Hands` does not propose to define the conditions for an agreement. According to polls, most Israelis trust their democratically elected Prime Minister to conduct negotiations on the details of an agreement in order to best represent the interests of the State of Israel. This can be demonstrated by the support of the public following the agreements reached by former Prime Ministers Begin and Rabin.
Ambassador Sharma added: “The campaign is not meant to provide solutions and conditions, but rather is intended as a building block to raise the issue and help the government achieve its aims. Naturally, there are difficult decisions and complex trade-offs to be made. An assurance of security for Israel can assist the sides in reaching a solution”.
“One Million Hands was inspired by a similar Australian campaign, ‘Sea of Hands’, that called for reconciliation with the Australian indigenous people following discrimination and mistreatment against them, which led to the dispossession of their land. Perhaps the Israeli campaign can have a similar impact and lead to reconciliation in the region?
Ambassador Sharma, who expressed a desire to see a similar campaign launched by the Palestinians, stated that: “While the campaigns are similar, there is a difference between the two cases. `Sea of hands’ in Australia was a sort of ‘marriage’ reconciling all Australians, while an agreement between the Palestinians and Israel is more of an amicable divorce”.
The Ambassador added: “The Australian Government does not have any desire to tell Israel what should be done or how. We are friends of Israel and want you to know that we support the Israeli government, regardless of who is in power. We support Israel’s efforts to negotiate an agreement and are here to help you achieve your objectives.
I personally find it very important to support the One Million Hands campaign. Both countries – Australia and Israel, are democracies, learning from each other. I like the idea of a friend reaching out to help another friend, not in a didactic way but as a show of support.”