Shorten in Israel

December 20, 2016 by J-Wire Staff
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Opposition leader Bill Shorten has met Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and addressed the Australia Israel UK Leadership Dialogue in Jerusalem.

Bill Shorten meets Benjamin Netanyahu

The full text of Bill Shorten’s address follows:

“It’s wonderful to be back in Israel and back among friends.I acknowledge all of the distinguished guests.
I was having a look through the list of Australian guests here and it occurs to me that many of us are what you might call ‘professional adversaries’.

I’m the Opposition Leader – we’ve just heard from another Opposition Leader.

In the heat of our respective political debates, in Australia, we argue with each other, we ridicule each other, we label each other every insulting adjective we can get our hands on and when we run out of those labels, we go back to the top of the list and start again.

But something interesting has been happening on this trip. Our domestic instability is receding.

Such is the power of Israel. Such is the force it exerts on our collective imagination.

All of the Australian guests I believe, and we heard it from the Trade Minister, we are united, in a quiet form of awe.
We are captivated by this nation of the oldest traditions and the newest inventions.

The blend of the ancient and the modern, the temporal and the spiritual, a land sacred to three mighty faiths.

A nation from where young Israelis are taught to ask questions, to study complex ideas and see this a nation who thinks out of the box as a result.

A nation too, like our own homeland, multicultural, the home of more than 100 different nationalities.

But I think that one thing that Australians find when we visit Israel, part of that affinity we all share for this remarkable place, comes from the great and diverse Jewish diaspora in our homeland. Ever since 1788, when the British justice system decided to offer some of its citizens one-way trips to Australia, all expenses paid – including some of my Irish ancestors – the Jewish community has been amongst the most significant and most influential contributors to our national success.

Bill Shorten and Chairman of the Yesh Atid Party Yair Lapid

As Tony Abbott said, Jewish-Australians have been our leaders in war and in peace: it was General Sir John Monash who was the last General in the British Army to be knighted by a King on the field of battle. He commanded American and Australian forces on the Western Front.

Not one but two Governors-General Sir Isaac Isaacs and Sir Zelman Cowen, have fulfilled Australia’s highest constitutional office with honour.

But it is not just civics. Generations of philanthropists and business people, household names in Australia: Lowy, Pratt, Smorgon.

In my own home town of Melbourne – like the whole of our nation, we owe so much to the Holocaust survivors who came to Australia in the 1940s. People who brought with them the memories, the texts, the traditions, the song, the sorrow, the music, the ritual, the family obligations of a remembered way of life. Refreshing the European ideals of mind and joy which had nearly been wiped out by atrocity of war and evil. Restoring a tradition, and building a new life in a faraway land.

A people who elevated the importance of learning.

Jewish Australians have established charities, underwritten scholarships, funding university departments, supporting the study of the past from which all understanding flows.

Jewish Australians who having seen the worst of times, sought to build the best of times for their children, and coming generations.

They paid their taxes, they taught, they served, they cared, they joined our politics, they argued the issues, at home and in global affairs.

And when the United Nations Assembly considered the resolution to create an independent Israel – the very first vote cast in Israel’s favour belonged to Australia.

The Australian Jewish News – a Hebrew newspaper five years older than our national parliament – described that day and that decision as:‘the realisation of a two thousand-year old dream’.

Yet I realise at this dialogue and tonight, Israel is more than an old dream made real, it is more than an ancient hope fulfilled.
It is a leader in the new world, the digital world.

And for every ancient place of worship that I visited in Israel on previous visits, there is a brand new start-up.

Israel has built an economy where science and entrepreneurship drive a thriving venture capital industry.

Israel is a society where more often than not people are rewarded for their ideas and encouraged to take risks.

You have a culture which teaches the world that failure is not the end of the road, it is a milestone on the way to success.

And we live in such changing times.
Around the world the ties which bind us, faith, family, community, our national identity are being tested by violence, extremism, prejudice and hate. This is a family litany for the Jewish people. It’s a familiar litany for the nation of Israel.

Every day you face enemies who deny the very existence of this marvellous nation.

It is to the credit of the mainstream of Australian politics that both our major parties, support the right of people of Israel to live in peace within secure boundaries. The best path to secure this peace, is to recognise the aspirations of the people of Palestine and their diaspora, the legitimate aspiration for a Palestinian state.

And, as friends, we should acknowledge that settlements are an issue to be resolved.

We believe a two state solution is in the best interests of everyone and the wider world – but we know that the challenges in this region extend far beyond Israel’s borders.

Last week, I had the privilege to meet Australian special forces and Australian soldiers serving in Iraq.
We know what the challenge is in Iraq – and we all admire the professionalism and skill of all of the troops helping preserve the integrity of the Iraqi Government and its borders.

We know that the defeat of Daesh is a mission which we all should extend our efforts to.

And we saw the footage from Aleppo, last week, people hearing gunfire draw closer, recording their last goodbyes to their family on video.

Australians have no real appreciation of this sort of life, the sort of life which Israel lives.

But what we understand is that Israel’s success, in fact, generates Australia’s success.

This dialogue is shaping up as the biggest and best yet. But in one irreplaceable facet, this year is different.

For the first time in the life of modern Israel, we are without Shimon Peres. My wife Chloe and I were privileged to meet Shimon Peres. He was charismatic and generous with his time.

His story is the story of the Israeli people. A migrant story, leaving Poland to pursue a new life in what was-then Palestine.
His father scratching out a future for the family in unforgiving soil. His grandfather, who gave young Shimon a love of reading, stayed in Poland and was burned alive in his synagogue when the Nazis captured his village.

He studied art, Shimon, he guarded his kibbutz with a rifle.

This to many Australians is the Jewish story.

Israel is a story of indignities endured and atrocities overcome.

A people who, from the ashes of the Shoah, built a new nation in an ancient homeland.Yet for all Shimon Peres’ achievements, one goal eluded him: peace.

He once said of Israel and the wars it fought: “We won them all.But we did not win the greatest victory that we aspired to: release from the need to win victories.”

Friends, Australia recognises that that is the task which falls not only to Israel but to its friends around the world.

I couldn’t be prouder of being a Labor friend of Israel.

I couldn’t be prouder of the Australian delegation here in support of Israel.

I believe that dialogues such as this help secure a sensible political debate across the Western world.

Israel can survive but with great friends it can flourish – and you have those great friends in great number tonight.”

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