Greens Senator: ‘My timing was clumsy’

Greens Senator: ‘My timing was clumsy’

FM Marise Payne and shadow minister Penny Wong have rebuked Greens Senator Janet Rice after she attacked Israel during a motion marking 25 years since Yitzhak Rabin's assassination

Senator Janet Rice (left) speaking in the Senate. Photo: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
Senator Janet Rice (left) speaking in the Senate. Photo: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

THE Greens Foreign Affairs spokesperson told The AJN this week her “timing was clumsy” when she delivered a speech last week attacking Israel during a motion marking 25 years since Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination.

But Senator Janet Rice stopped short of a retraction or apology after accusing Israel of “breaches of international law that present a huge obstacle” to achieving a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Rice was responding to a bipartisan Senate motion which affirmed Australia’s “ongoing commitment to Yitzhak Rabin’s vision of a peaceful and enduring two-state solution”. A similar motion was passed in the House of Representatives last month.

Without making any reference to the late prime minister or his quest for peace, Rice stated, “Australia needs to make clear to the Israeli government that increasing settlement-building and the threat of annexation, not to mention the regular demolition of Palestinian homes, is a massive obstacle to achieving peace.”

#BREAKING Foreign Minister Marise Payne and shadow foreign affairs minister Penny Wong have strongly rebuked Greens…

Posted by The Australian Jewish News on Wednesday, December 2, 2020

She added, “We urge the government to finally recognise a Palestinian state, as so many other countries have done.”

Her remarks were quickly slammed by shadow foreign affairs minister Penny Wong and Foreign Minister Marise Payne.

“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 was just made,” Wong lamented.

“I think there is support across the chamber for a two-state solution. People may have different views about how that should proceed, but those differences ought not to have been aired in the context of this motion.”

Noting the motion acknowledged Rabin’s “promotion of peace and coexistence”, Payne said it was “profoundly disappointing” the Greens refused to “extend with courtesy and diplomacy and generosity of spirit an acknowledgement of this resolution”.

The sentiment was echoed by Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler, who commented, “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 … Instead of having the respect or the maturity to forgo cheap political insults, Senator Rice embarrassed herself and her party.”

Speaking to The AJN on Tuesday, Rice admitted the timing was inappropriate, but refused to apologise for the remarks.

“The Greens supported the motion commemorating Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. On reflection, I should have made that clear in my statement,” she said. “The second part of the motion affirmed Australia’s commitment to an enduring and peaceful two-state solution, a view shared by the Greens, the Liberals and the Labor party. 

“It was this commitment, and the vision of those in Israel and globally for peace, that I was reflecting on when drawing attention to the current challenges in bringing about a two-state solution and achieving peace, equality and justice for all Israelis and Palestinians. 

“However, I acknowledge my timing was clumsy given Rabin’s memory was being honoured.”

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin told The AJN that while he welcomed the Senator’s “moment of clarity … she has not withdrawn the comment itself only expressed regret for its timing, despite placing complete blame on Israel for the absence of a two-state solution”.

“We hope Senator Rice’s clarification will lead her to realise that Yitzhak Rabin and the nation he led have made excruciating compromises to end the conflict, even extending a hand of friendship to murderers in the desperate hope of finding a partner for peace,” Ryvchin said.

“We hope that in future Senator Rice will avoid one-sided, ahistorical and propagandistic comments on the conflict which only entrench divisions and erode the goodwill necessary for peacemaking.”

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