Peres Rudd 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Rain got in the way of a proper red carpet welcome for Australian Foreign
Minister Kevin Rudd, when he and his large delegation called on President Shimon
Peres at Beit Hanassi on Monday.
There was a small red carpet inside the
building, but not the long trailing red carpet along which VIPs of Rudd’s rank
usually walk through the grounds before entering the reception
Rudd, in Israel for the third time, warmly embraced Peres who asked
him what it was like to be a foreign minister after having been a prime
To take the barb out of the question, he added that he had his
own experience in this respect.
“I was going to ask you for guidance,”
said Rudd without missing a beat.
But treating the question more
seriously, he said that he was now able to give 100 percent of his time to
foreign affairs instead of 20% as he had done as prime minister.
ousted from his former position in a party putsch in June.
“It’s great to
be able to represent your country abroad,” he said.
Peres recalled that
Australian troops had been instrumental in liberating the land of Israel from
Turkish rule during World War I, and that Australian soldiers had also been
stationed in the country during World War II.
“We fell in love with
them,” Peres said.
“They fell in love with Israel too,” Rudd said,
disclosing that his father had been one of those who fell in love with Israel
and had fought in the Palestine campaign in 1940-41.
“He was a boy who
grew up in rural Australia and suddenly found himself in the Holy Land. It was a
He told Peres that on Sunday evening he had been to
Yad Vashem to honor the memory of Australian aboriginal William Cooper, who in
1938, when he was in his late 70s, took up the cause of the Jewish people after
reading about what had happened in Germany on Kristallnacht. He had collected a
petition from fellow aborigines demanding that the Germans cease their
persecution of the Jews.
It was a time when most countries, including
Australia, were not doing anything about the situation, Rudd admitted. Cooper
was passionate about the injustice done to his own indigenous people, and could
therefore identify with the injustice done to the Jews, Rudd said. “He instantly
saw a wrong being done,” and organized a protest rally and marched to the German
Following their private discussion, Peres and Rudd held a
Q&A session with the members of Rudd’s delegation, who are here to
participate in the third annual Australia-Israel Leadership Forum, which
according to its founder Albert Danon, is based on the Brookings Institution’s
Tony Walker, the international editor of the Australian
Financial Review, who spent several years in Israel as a foreign correspondent,
took this as a cue to go a step beyond what US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton had said at the Saban Forum with regard to settlements remaining an
impediment to the peace process, and asked Peres what the solution
Peres made it very clear that while the Palestinians may regard
Jerusalem as a settlement, Israel does not and will not.
He was confident
that there would be a solution, but the question was whether the solution would
come before the negotiations, or whether it was a matter for
Over the past 44 years he said, Jews did not build in the 21
neighborhoods in which Arabs reside. They only built in neighborhoods in which
Jews are living.
As far as he was concerned, the best solution was to
continue in that vein.
As for an agreement, it must be a compromise, he
said, “because you cannot have a result before negotiations start.”
the Palestinian question, Peres acknowledged that it was difficult for the
governments to agree, but said that at nongovernment level, there is a lot of
agreement and cooperation.
“Wherever there is hitech, we have
cooperation,” he said.