Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Bi-partisan support in Australia for Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks

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As ‘Operation Pillar of Defence' enters its third day (see previous blog post), rockets have gone from shelling southern Israel to threatening Tel Aviv - placing millions of Israelis in range of rocket attack. To date the Iron Dome missile defence system has intercepted 130 rockets, but some 300 rockets and mortars have landed in Israeli territory and three Israelis have been killed - Itzik Amsalem, Aharon Smadja and Mira Scharf who was pregnant.

In Australia, the Government and Coalition have expressed bi-partisan support for Israel's right to defend itself from rocket attacks fired from the Gaza Strip.

Today the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard released the following strong statement:

"Australia is gravely concerned by escalating conflict in the Middle East. The Government condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip and calls on Hamas to cease these immediately. Australia supports Israel's right to defend itself against these indiscriminate attacks. Such attacks on Israel's civilian population are utterly unacceptable. Further escalations in rocket attacks from Gaza, such as those seen overnight, will not serve the interests of the Palestinian people or their cause for self-determination and statehood. We urge both Hamas and Israel to exercise restraint and to protect the lives of civilians.

The Government of Australia will work earnestly with other countries to end further attacks from Gaza and to encourage a de-escalation of this conflict. We encourage regional countries, particularly Egypt, to support efforts to restore peace. The only way forward is a two-state solution based on direct negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis."

Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott released a statement condemning the missiles from Gaza and calling for Palestinians to recognise Israel and renounce violence:

"The Coalition strongly condemns the missile attacks from Gaza into southern Israel which have taken Israeli lives and disrupted Israel's daily life. We of course regret the escalation of conflict, but Israel has every right to defend itself against the threat while continuing to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties. The latest escalation of conflict highlights the importance of Israel and the Palestinians reaching compromise including the recognition of Israel by the Palestinians and their renunciation of violence - necessary preconditions to achieving a lasting two-state peace settlement."

The US, Canada and UK have also expressed their support for Israel and condemned Hamas for the latest escalation.

A statement by the US State Department supported Israel's "right to defend itself" and noted the hypocrisy of Hamas:

"We strongly condemn the barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, and we regret the death and injury of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians caused by the ensuing violence. There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel. We call on those responsible to stop these cowardly acts immediately. We support Israel's right to defend itself, and we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties.

Hamas claims to have the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, yet it continues to engage in violence that is counterproductive to the Palestinian cause. Attacking Israel on a near daily basis does nothing to help Palestinians in Gaza or to move the Palestinian people any closer to achieving self determination."

The US Senate has also unanimously passed a resolution expressing solidarity with Israel, supporting its "inherent right to act in self-defense to protect its citizens against acts of terrorism".

Similarly, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird stated that Canada "stands with Israel":

"We fundamentally believe that Israel has the right to defend itself and its citizens from terrorist threats. Far too often, the Jewish people find themselves on the front lines in the struggle against terrorism, the great struggle of our generation. Just last weekend, more than 100 rockets rained down on civilians in southern Israel from positions in the Gaza Strip. Canada condemns the terrorist group Hamas and stands with Israel as it deals with regional threats to peace and security."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also made a statement stating the Hamas bears "principal responsibility" for the current crisis:

"I am gravely concerned by the situation in Gaza and southern Israel and the British Government deeply regrets the loss of civilian life on both sides. We call on all those involved to avoid any action which risks civilian casualties or escalates the crisis.
Hamas bears principal responsibility for the current crisis. I utterly condemn rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel by Hamas and other armed groups.
This creates an intolerable situation for Israeli civilians in southern Israel, who have the right to live without fear of attack from Gaza. The rocket attacks also risk worsening the plight of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, which is already ofcourse a precarious situation.
Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza should cease attacks against Israel immediately. And I call on those in the region with influence over Hamas to use that influence to bring about an end to the attacks.
I also strongly urge Israel to do its utmost to reduce tension, to avoid civilian casualties and to increase the prospects for both sides to live in peace. It is imperative to avoid the risk of a spiral of violence. The escalation of this conflict would be in no one's interest, particularly at a time of instability in the region."

Mr. Hague also said the latest crisis underlined the "urgent need for progress toward a two-state solution which allows Israelis and Palestinians to live alongside each other in peace and security".

Sharyn Mittelman

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