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Israel and America on the Wrong Side of History

MELBOURNE – Shortly before Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination by a right-wing Jewish extremist in November 1995, I met him in Tel Aviv. I was visiting Israel as Australia’s foreign minister to argue the case for rapid implementation of the Oslo peace accords – all the way through to negotiated acceptance of Palestinian statehood. I concluded my pitch by saying, with perhaps a little more cheek than was appropriate, “But of course I’m preaching to the converted.” Rabin’s response is etched in my memory. He paused, then said with a little half-smile: “To the committed, not the converted.”

For all his deep emotional attachment to the idea of Israel embracing all of historical Judea and Samaria, Rabin knew that the only way to ensure a democratic Jewish state with viable, secure borders was to accept a Palestinian state alongside it, equally secure and viable. They would share Jerusalem as a capital, and find a mutually acceptable solution to the enormously sensitive issue of the return of Palestinian refugees.