The PRESIDENT —In closing the debate, I would like to add just a few words of my own. It is always a disadvantage to speak last because most things have already been said. Of course, I support all of those things that have been said.
I visited Israel in April this year as a guest of the Knesset and, together with the Minister for Defence, Senator Robert Ray, hosted a dinner for Prime Minister Rabin at the famous King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Also, because I was sitting next to her, I had a very long discussion with the Prime Minister’s wife, Leah, and I must say I was impressed with her knowledge of Australia, with her very deep knowledge of Australian art and with her fondness for Australia—particularly for the city of Melbourne, but for Australia as a whole.
I found both of them to be extremely engaging people. Mr Rabin was, above all, a realist who had seen the limits of what could be gained from war and knew that, if there were to be any lasting peace, real changes would have to be made. His land for peace policies were based on pragmatic confidence building measures designed to lock Palestinians into ever increasing responsibilities for the peace process. He could do this because the majority of Israelis knew him to be tough in ensuring their own security yet willing to try a new path to peace. He had seen how the intifada had broadened the scope of the conflict and how the policies of the past had alarmed even those close friends of Israel. He was aware of the risks from those who believed might would always be right. But he did not waiver in his determination.
However, it must have been extremely hurtful to him to have been called a Nazi by some Jews, knowing how offensive that association is to all Jews. Yet he carried on. As others have already said, I can only hope that his untimely death continues to unify the people of Israel and that they press ahead with the peace program. As has already been alluded to, polls yesterday showed that the vast majority of Israelis want this to happen. It would be a fitting tribute if his death were a catalyst in some sort of existentialist way, if that is not in conflict with Judaism, for real peace in the Middle East.
I support the motion and add my condolences, through you, Mr Ambassador, to the people of Israel, to the Jewish Diaspora and, more particularly, to his widow, Leah, and to her family. I ask honourable senators to stand in silence to signify their assent to the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable senators standing in their places.