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Prebble Speech: Israeli Independence Day

Richard Prebble Speech: Israeli 55th Anniversary of Independence Day

Israeli 55th Anniversary of Independence Day Speech by Hon Richard Prebble MP CBE Sunday 11 May, 7:15 pm Auckland Zoo.

It is fitting that we remember today the formation of the state of Israel. The Israeli Declaration of Independence was read out on Friday, the 14th of May 1948 by David Ben Gurion, Israeli's first Prime Minister.

The declaration stated that Israel: "will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations."

New Zealand and Israel have much in common. New Zealander's identify with and we support the basic values that are contained in the Israeli Declaration of Independence.

We must constantly remember that Israel is a democratic parliamentary state that observes the rule of law. This cannot be said about any of Israel's enemies.

What we seek is tolerance and freedom - without which there can be no peace.

When the task looks hopeless lets remember what the Psalmist wrote, the Lord God of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. While we may measure progress towards peace in the Middle East in millimetres, we must never falter or lose heart in our search for peace.

What happens to Israel has great impact on the world. New Zealand needs to be counted on this issue.

It is not just on our wallet when we fill up our cars, that the Middle East is impacted.

It is also on our values. What is important to us.

I am the founder of the Israel/New Zealand parliamentary association. The oldest such group in our parliament and the most active.

I am asked, why did I found the association?

I like to say, "just to annoy the left" and I have to admit teasing lefties is one of my pleasures.

But it is not the real reason. The real reason is "never again".

It is one of humans many failings is to believe that we are some how better than our forefathers, now too civilized, that some how, today is different.

That it is the end of the business cycle, the end of history, or of the possibility of the holocaust.

One of my party's tasks in parliament is to tell it like it is. Those who do not learn from history, must repeat it.

Israel is at risk. Any country that is only 14 kilometres across as Israel is from the Mediterranean to the old armistice line, the first war it loses, will be the last war.

No where do we read in our media any attempt to provide balanced coverage or explanation of why the US and Israel have given up on Yasser Arafat.

The US Secretary of Defence stated in Summer of 2002, in response to the various peace plans that had been put forward requiring Israel to surrender the West bank to Arafat's rule: "if you have a country that's a sliver and you can see three sides of it from a high hotel building, you've got to be careful what you give away and to whom you give it."

Since then we have gone from an era where the President of the previous US Administration poured his heart and sole into brokering a peace deal between Israel and Palestine only to have Yasser Arafat reward him with a new war. A war of terrorist suicide bombers.

Nothing was more revealing of Arafat's true beliefs when at the Camp David Summit in 2000 he responded to President Clinton's effort to persuade him to compromise over Jerusalem's Temple Mount (Al-Haram al Sharif, the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock) by saying "What temple? The Jews had no temples there. It's a legend."

We have now entered a new stage in which the current administration is delivering Yasser Arafat into irrelevance. Bush refuses to take Arafat's calls and as recently as last week with Colin Powel, the US Secretary of State, visited Palestine and refused to see Arafat on his home soil.

Yasser Arafat's obsession with the instruments of evil to push the debate towards a Palestinian solution has not, and should not, be a solution for Israel based on fear and terror.

Our own Prime Minister, Helen Clark, believes we live in a benign strategic environment. I believe this will go down as one of the worst statements a New Zealand Prime Minister has ever made.

With Saddam Hussein either deposed or killed I believe a new Middle Eastern era is now upon us. New Zealand's credibility lies in, and in fact could be resuscitated by, re-joining the coalition of the willing and our traditional allies in supporting the current Quartet Road Map to peace, recently drawn up by the US, Russia, the EU and the UN.

Before the "coalition of the willing" attacked Saddam Hussein, our own Minister of Foreign Affairs said in a speech called Iraqi crisis: NZ's position given on Thursday 13 March 2003.

"A war judged by Middle Eastern and Islamic peoples as unjust risks creating sympathy and support for terrorists who would otherwise be condemned.

A war in Iraq would take attention from the primary threat to international security, which is terrorism, and also from the need to find a lasting solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, another cause which creates sympathy for terrorist action." (Speech: Hon Phil Goff; Iraq crisis: NZ's position, Thursday, 13 March 2003)

This is a misguided analysis and deeply reflects the current view held by this Government. Events have proved Phil Goff wrong again. By smothering the flames of terror and fear perpetrated by dictators and sponsors of terror, we can now focus our attention more astutely on an Israel/Palestinian solution.

Now that the US has published the road map to peace Phil Goff has stated: "Israel has the prospect of achieving secure and recognised borders and an end to terrorism. The Palestinian people have the chance to achieve self-determination within a state of their own; to end the many violent deaths they too have endured, and to achieve desperately needed social and economic progress." (Press release: "Roadmap ambitious", Thursday, 1 May 2003)

The very reason he is able to make this statement is because of the conviction, strength and determination of the US and its allies.

It is well known that Saddam Hussein and his regime had provided payments for families of suicide bombers, as well as sheltering Palestinian militants. Not only was he a perpetrator of terror on his own people, but also he provided a harbour for terrorists.

Freedom has never coming from meaningless rhetoric. It comes from those who are willing to make the commitment.

I call on Phil Goff to realign our nation's foreign policy so that his words are not empty.

Let's make a commitment. Let us commit ourselves and our nation to a day when there is peace in the Middle East, a day when we are not taking any risk when we say "next year in Jerusalem".

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