Expressing relief at the ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Gaza, Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said this week that “a permanent peace will only be achieved when Israel has a partner that doesn’t seek its destruction.”
The fighting last weekend saw a thousand rockets fired at Israeli civilians after Israel, with credible intelligence of an imminent terrorist attack, conducted airstrikes against PIJ targets, killing senior commander Tayseer Jabari. A ceasefire began on Monday morning Australian time.
“We are relieved that the ceasefire appears to be holding,” Leibler said.
“The Australian Jewish community applauds the immense lengths Israel always goes to to protect its citizens and prevent harm to Palestinian civilians.
“Islamic Jihad is considered a terrorist organisation by many countries, including Australia. It is fully funded by Iran, and takes its directions from the Iranian Supreme Leader. It is Iran – not Israel and not the Palestinian people – that was seeking to inflame tensions.”
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein expressed hope the ceasefire would continue to hold and PIJ “remains deterred from further terrorist violence”.
“Gaza is a tinderbox for the region, a gross threat to Israel, and a terrible place to live for its inhabitants. The only way to end this awful reality is to disarm the terror groups that make it so – Hamas and PIJ,” he said.
“We are pleased that many countries, including Australia, the US, the UK and various European nations, made statements affirming Israel’s right to self-defence.
“It is now time for the international community to make concerted efforts to achieve such disarmament if there is to be any hope of avoiding another similar conflict in coming months.”
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) said PIJ “has a long record of firing rockets aimed at civilian targets in Israel, and using Palestinian civilians and civilian buildings and neighbourhoods in Gaza as cover”.
“Under international law, Israel has the right and duty to defend its citizens and territory against armed attacks, and this includes the right to take pre-emptive action against an imminent attack,” ECAJ co-CEO Peter Wertheim said.
“It was gratifying to note that Australia’s ambassador to Israel, Paul Griffiths, publicly confirmed that ‘Australia respects Israel’s right to defend itself.'”
Wertheim noted that Hamas stayed out of the fighting on this occasion and consequently was spared from Israeli action.
“Inevitably there were also civilian casualties, some of them caused by misfired PIJ rockets which fell short of their targets in Israel and landed in Gaza instead,” he said.
“Every civilian victim is a tragedy and is to be regretted. The responsibility lies squarely with PIJ.”
He added, “Instead of envisaging Israel as an historical aberration that is illegitimate and destined to disappear, Palestinian leaders need to wake up to the reality that the Jewish people have deep roots in the land, and that Israel is here to stay.”