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Member of the Knesset Addresses Community on Peace and Politics in the Middle East

Melbournians crammed into Beth Weizmann Community Centre on 8 September to hear Hilik Bar MK, General Secretary of the Israel Labor Party and Deputy Speaker of the Knesset present a public lecture on:  “Peace in a time of terrorism.”

The 150 community members were given a no-holds-barred account of Mr Bar’s views on creating peace in Israel and Labor’s proposal for a two-state solution. Co-hosted by the Zionist Council of Victoria, Mr Bar was brought to Australia by the Australia Israel Labor Dialogue (AILD). Mr Bar gave the community the opportunity to hear politics, policies and solutions from the left side of government.

Michael Borowick of AILD said that it was important to promote and foster dialogue and links between the Australian and Israeli Labor Parties and bringing Mr Bar to Australia was part of the AILD’s mission.

“Despite the tyranny of distance there are warm relations between Israel and Australia. Not all is right in the Australian Labor Party and we have to fight to make sure support for Israel is bipartisan.

The AILD is a relatively new organisation, officially launching in April 2013. They support the organisation of delegations between the two Labor Parties in both Australia and Israel, raising awareness of the objectives and activties of both Parties.

Mr Bar believes that the two-state solution is the only means of ensuring the future of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and is the only framework through which Israel can end its conflict with the Palestinians.

He believes that we can’t give up on peace and that if we believe in the Zionist dream of having a Jewish homeland we have to negotiate with Palestinians who want to live “next to us” rather than “instead of us”. In saying that he explained that a Palestinian state needs to recognise Israel’s right to exist.

“Israel doesn’t want war but we will protect ourselves. We don’t rejoice in war but we need to protect our citizens. In order to accomplish peace we need dialogue on both sides – the Israeli side and the Palestinian side. Even though I am from Labor we support Netanyahu.

He went to on to say that if Netanyahu were to pursue peace through a two-state solution, Labor would support him – making him a “ king”.

“Netanyahu could become “King” – it is up to him whether he is “King” of the Right Wing or “King” of Israel,” said Mr Bar. “He cannot allow himself to be held hostage to his right wing counterparts and be swayed by them. Labor will support him 100 percent if he proposes peace in a two-state solution with the Palestinians. Israel has a silent majority in which 80 percent of those polled agreed to a two-state solution. Labor will support that majority. Netanyahu needs to negotiate with Abbas for purposes of peace.”

Mr Bar gives high marks to Palestinian President  Mahmoud Abbas for standing on principle for “20 years” in opposing violence unlike his predecessor Yasser Arafat and believes that he and Netanyahu can negotiate a lasting peace.

Sam Tatarka, President of Zionist Council of Victoria said: “We are honoured to have such a high ranking member of the Knesset join us and give us an opportunity to hear a point of view that we don’t often get to hear. The fact that Mr Bar was prepared to come and visit us in Australia regardless of issues back in Israel shows his commitment to furthering dialogue between Australia and Israel.”