AIJAC Rambam program

Impressions of Israel

'If Israel falls over, it means the side of darkness has won'

“It is important that liberal democracies stand up for other liberal democracies,” Senator James McGrath told an Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) luncheon last week, speaking alongside Dr John Lee, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Both had recently returned from Israel as part of AIJAC’s Rambam study program.

McGrath noted the importance of the Rambam trip and emphasised the need for politicians to convince voters to both care about the Middle East and support Israel. During a tour of Israel’s northern border with Lebanon and Syria, the Senator said he came to the realisation that Israel is also effectively surrounded by Iran and its proxies.

Australia needs to support Israel “because it’s a democracy. It’s as simple as that”, McGrath said. “If Israel falls over, it means the side of darkness has won.”

Lee discussed how the trip had allowed him to develop arguments against friends who view the entire Middle East solely through the prism of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and believe Israel is the primary cause of all problems in the Middle East, the solution to which would be immediate recognition of a Palestinian state as advocated for recently at the Victorian Labor State Conference.

“The real story in the Middle East is Iran,” Lee said, noting that the obsession with Israel and the Israeli–Palestinian conflict did not match up with regional realities. “Iran and its proxies don’t actually recognise Israel’s right to exist.”

He said he also asked his friends to explain the decades-long history of Palestinian rejection of statehood offers if Israel was the main problem, and pointed out divisions in the Palestinian national movement. Hamas, a terrorist group that doesn’t recognise Israel’s right to exist, currently rules Gaza, while the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has made clear by its choices that it also isn’t interested in a two-state solution.

Finally, Lee told his friends the idea of Israel as some uniquely problematic country did not accord with reality. “When you travel around Israel, the overriding impression is that it is a normal country. It is a country where Arabs and Israelis just want to get on with life,” he said.

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