That this House:
(1) notes that:
(a) 4 November 2020 marks 25 years since Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated at an anti-violence rally in support of the Oslo peace process;
(b) a condolence motion for Prime Minister Rabin was moved in this House on 23 November 1995 by the Prime Minister, Mr Keating, and seconded by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Howard, reflecting the deep sense of loss and shock all Australians felt at the news of Mr Rabin’s assassination;
(c) Yitzhak Rabin served as Israel’s Prime Minister on two separate occasions, from 1974 to 1977 and then again from 1992 until his death in 1995, in addition to being a decorated general who led Israel’s armed forces during the 1967 Six Day War and served as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States; and
(d) Prime Minister Rabin promoted peace and co-existence in a turbulent time and region, concluding the Oslo Peace Accords with the Palestinians in 1993, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Israel-Jordan peace treaty in 1994; and
(2) affirms Australia’s ongoing commitment to Mr Rabin’s vision of a peaceful two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, mutually negotiated and agreed by the Israelis and the Palestinians.
It was on 4 November 1995 that Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s 11th Prime Minister at the time, was assassinated at a rally. He had come to address a peace rally in support of the Oslo peace process at a square which was then known as the Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv. When the rally ended and he was walking down the steps to his car, he was shot at close range by an assassin. He was taken to the Ichilov Hospital but died on the operating table.
Like many traumatic political events, I remember where I was at the time. I was a student of 20 studying in the United Kingdom. It was a Saturday and I don’t think I heard the news until the following morning, the Sunday. As ignorant as I then I was of the Middle East and of Israel, I had a sense that something profound and shocking had taken place, an event whose reverberations would echo across the decades. Indeed, during the four years I spent as Australia’s ambassador to Israel, from 2013 to 2017, the scar that this shocking crime left on Israel, its body politic and its society was still highly visible to me.
Rabin was a phenomenal individual. He led a phenomenal life. He was born in the early state of Israel, the Yishuv, in 1922. He joined the Haganah, Israel’s early Jewish defence forces, in 1936 and then the specialist Palmach section of the Haganah. He fought alongside the Allies in World War II, assisting in the Allied invasion of Lebanon, then controlled by Vichy France, in 1941. At the end of the war, in 1945, he was arrested by British colonial authorities for supporting the Israel cause and spent several months in jail. In the 1948 War of Independence he fought in Jerusalem and also in the Negev. The high-water mark of his military career came in 1967 with the Six-Day War and Israel’s lightning triumph over the assembled armies of invasion from Egypt, Syria and Jordan.
Rabin went on to serve as ambassador to the United States from 1969 to 1974. He was elected to the Knesset and became Prime Minister from 1974 to 1977. He was elected as Prime Minister again in 1992, and it was during this term that he was assassinated. Rabin’s career was a remarkable and continuous career of public service and sacrifice dedicated to building the state of Israel. And the Israel of today—modern, successful, secure and vibrant—is built upon the foundations that Rabin and others like him put in place.
Rabin was of course assassinated by a Jewish nationalist, someone opposed to his efforts to reach peace with the Palestinians. I was in a conversation last week with an individual whose brother-in-law was serving as one of Rabin’s security detail at the time. He told me that the Shabak, Israel’s security services, were on the lookout that night for Palestinian nationalists, Arab nationalists—the normal causes of concern for Israel’s security services. At the time, they didn’t think Rabin would be assassinated by one of his own—but, of course, he was.
Despite Rabin’s modern incarnation as a peacenik, he was anything but. He was a hard-nosed general and a patriot who nonetheless recognised that Israel’s ultimate security was better served by peace with its neighbours rather than continual armed struggle. This is what led him to recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation as a political actor, notwithstanding the fact that the PLO’s campaign of terrorism had killed hundreds of Israelis. It was for this that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. And though Rabin of course supported Oslo—was an architect of Oslo—he was very much a realist. He recognised that Israel’s ultimate eastern security barrier would lie in the Jordan River Valley. He recognised that any Palestinian entity would be an entity that was less than a state or demilitarised. Rabin cared very much about preserving a Jewish democratic homeland in Israel. This is what motivated him throughout his career. He worried about a bi-national reality—a reality of Israel ruling over the lives of another people who lacked the rights of their own citizens.
And this worry is just as pertinent today as it was in Rabin’s time. Rabin undoubtedly would have applauded Israel’s recent progress in its relations with the Arab world, because it speaks to the deep security which only recognition and normalisation can achieve for the state of Israel. I affirm Israel’s ongoing commitment to an Israel that is secure and at peace with its neighbours and our continued support for a two-state solution on this 25th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s death.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Zimmerman ): Is the motion seconded?
Mr Leeser: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.