Politicians’ impressions of Israel

May 25, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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David Leyonhjelm, Liberal Democrat Senator for New South Wales, and Trent Zimmerman, Liberal Member for North Sydney, spoke at an Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) luncheon in Sydney on their experience in Israel.

Jeremy Jones,Trent Zimmerman, Dr Colin Rubenstein and Senator David Leyonhjelm

The politicians have recently returned from participating in AIJAC ’s Rambam Program, which sponsors trips to Israel for select politicians, advisers, journalists, public servants, and student leaders.

Senator Leyonhjelm said that while he has tracked events and political trends in the country very closely, the trip added “considerable detail” to his understanding. He was struck by the size of Sderot, which he’d initially thought from news reports to be a small, isolated village rather than a fully integrated town, as well as the widespread agriculture in the Negev.

He discussed his impression of Palestinian refugee camps, which he characterised as “ramshackle” neighbourhoods rather than tent cities. “I’ve seen worse,” he said, “much, much worse in Asia and Africa.” As a result of his briefings on how Australian money for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) is spent, Leyonhjelm says he intends to push the government to cease funding the organisation.

He maintained that as long as the Palestinian attitude towards Israelis is so hostile, there won’t be a resolution of the conflict. He is dubious about the two-state solution under the current circumstances.

Mr. Zimmerman said he also learned so much during this trip, although he had already fallen in love with Israel because of its rich history and spirit of innovation.

The trip made him realise the “security pressure” on Israel stemming from its tiny size and proximity of its enemies, and said that given the flaws in the Palestinian Authority “the preconditions for a peaceful settlement just simply don’t exist.”

Both parliamentarians said the trip was an immensely enriching experience.

Other MP’s in the group were Rick Wilson(Lib. WA) and Kevin Hogan(National, NSW).

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