A Rambam study program

September 27, 2018 by Ahron Shapiro
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The recent US decision to stop funding the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) featured highly in the minds of members of parliament that discussed their experiences on Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council’s Rambam study program at a luncheon meeting with AIJAC supporters in Melbourne.

Jamie Hyams, Colin Rubenstein, Solikhah Yuliatiningtyas, Rick Wilson, Stirling Griff, Andrew Hastie, Mark Leibler, Jeremy Jones

Western Australia Federal MP Rick Wilson (Lib, O’Connor) and South Australian Senator Sterling Griff (Centre Alliance), who participated in separate Rambam groups earlier this year, each reported their surprise to learn during visits to UNRWA refugee camps during the program how the UN gives Palestinians alone the entitlement to pass refugee status onto their descendants in perpetuity.

Senator Griff told AIJAC supporters that “the extended definition of what constitutes a bona-fide Palestinian refugee frankly blew me away. It’s not something you really hear about in Australia,” while Mr. Wilson remarked that “we have to break that cycle” of unsustainable Palestinian dependency through refugee status.

Both legislators also contrasted the confronting scenes of poverty in the refugee camps with the relative prosperity on display in nearby Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Rawabi.

Meanwhile, Western Australia Federal MP Andrew Hastie, Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and a Rambam graduate from last year, said that he came to appreciate Israel’s unique security challenges by seeing them firsthand.

All of the participants remarked on the quality of the meetings they had in Israel and the Palestinian Authority with a variety of experts, commentators and analysts. Andrew  Hastie and Senator Griff each recalled wisdom imparted by Israeli peace negotiator Tal Becker during meetings on their respective trips.

Hastie recalled Becker stressing the importance in negotiations of “drafting your opponent’s victory speech” – or, in other words, considering how they would be able to sell the agreement to their public.

While Illustrating the difficulty of bridging the final status issues between Israel and the Palestinians,  Griff also quoted Becker, saying “it’s a negotiation between two traumatized people in competition with each other. Both are worried about their future, and both are troubled by their past.”

All the parliamentary speakers urged increased ties with Israel on the federal level as being in Australia’s interest.  Hastie emphasised how Australia could benefit from Israeli defence expertise, Wilson, in his responsibilities as Chair of Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources, termed Israeli innovation in water conservation  and reclamation as the “gold-standard”, while Senator Griff said that Australia had much to benefit from Israeli technology and start-up business culture.

The afternoon’s remarks were capped off with comments by another recent Rambam program graduate, Indonesian Solikhah Yuliatiningtyas, who is a Lecturer at School of Journalism, Faculty of Mass Communication Science at Universitas Dr. Soetomo Surabaya (UNITOMO). Ms. Yuliatiningtyas thanked AIJAC supporters for making it possible for her to visit Israel and learn more about the country and the issues facing it, and stressed the need for more Indonesians to visit Israel in the interests of furthering peace.



One Response to “A Rambam study program”
  1. Eleonora Mostert says:

    I heard on the grsape vine that Australia is already benefiting from Israeli technology on many fronts, Recently Australia is dealing with Tanks… not water tanks. but Military Tanks.

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