The Zionist Federation of Australia welcomed a Senate motion by Senator Eric Abetz on behalf of 23 other cross-party senators.
The motion marked the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The motion was similar to one moved in the House of Representatives during the last sitting fortnight.
The tabling of the motion was marred by an intervention by Greens Senator Janet Rice, who ignored the motion entirely, instead attacking Israeli actions as being “a massive obstacle for achieving peace”. She made no comment either about Israel’s offers of peace or about any Palestinian actions that have obstructed peace.
ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said, “Senator Rice’s statement was truly galling. Not so much the content of what she said – because we have sadly come to expect one-sided statements from the Greens that do nothing to create understanding about Israeli–Palestinian issues – but the timing. This was a motion dedicated to the memory of an Israeli prime minister who was slain at a peace rally in support of Israeli–Palestinian peace. A man whose legacy is forever associated with his attempts to reach out to Palestinians. Instead of having the respect or the maturity to forgo cheap political insults, Senator Rice embarrassed herself and her party.”
Mr Leibler also thanked Senator Abetz and the other senators. He said, “This motion was signed by 24 different senators from across the political spectrum. These senators’ commitment to honouring a man of peace, and of peaceful relations between Israelis and Palestinians, is most appreciated.”
After Senator Rice’s comments, Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister (and Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Penny Wong and Foreign Minister Marise Payne stood to condemn Senator Rice’s intervention.
Senator Wong said, “I express my regret that the Greens felt, in relation to a motion commemorating such an honourable and decent man, the need to make a political statement such as that which was just made… Those differences [in views on the Israeli–Palestinian situation] ought not have been aired in the context of this motion.”
Senator Payne said, “That it is not possible to extend with courtesy and diplomacy and generosity of spirit in acknowledgement of this resolution by the Greens in in this chamber is profoundly disappointing.