'Hamas acting same as ISIS' suggests Israel's Labor party Secretary General
TranscriptCHRIS UHLMANN, PRESENTER: Another bloody act has been written in the macabre internet theatre of Islamic State terrorists.
Freelance journalist Steven Sotloff was reporting on the Syrian Civil War when he disappeared in August last year.
He emerged a fortnight ago in a chilling video, kneeling at the feet of a hooded thug who'd just beheaded fellow American James Foley.
The warning was clear: Steven Sotloff would die if the United States didn't call a halt to air strikes.
Last week, his mother, Shirley Sotloff, begged for her son's life.
SHIRLEY SOTLOFF: I ask you to please release my child. As a mother, I ask your justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over. I ask you to use your authority to spare his life and to follow the example set by the Prophet Muhammad, who protected people of the book. I want what every mother wants: to live to see her children's children. I plead with you to grant me this.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Her pleas went unheeded. Another video was posted overnight. In it, Steven Sotloff is butchered.
TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER: This just demonstrates that we are dealing with pure evil. This is a hideous movement that not only does evil, it revels in evil, it exalts in evil and it abundantly justifies what Australia and other countries are doing to assist people who are threatened by this murderous rage, to protect people who are at risk from this murderous rage.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Prime Minister Tony Abbott has authorised Australian planes to carry weapons to the Kurds fighting the Islamic State terrorists in northern Iraq, but it's just one battle in the Middle East, a region that is aflame from end to end. From bomb attacks in Egypt to the Civil War in Syria, the body count rises by the day, and while the war has ended in Gaza, there is an uneasy and fragile peace.
Hilik Bar is secretary general of Israel's Labour Party and Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. He joined me from Canberra.
Hilik Bar, welcome to 7.30.
HILIK BAR, SECRETARY GENERAL, LABOR PARTY: Thank you so much.
CHRIS UHLMANN: The last Iraq war saw Iran emerge as the dominant power in the region and a proliferation of terrorist groups. How could we possibly know what will happen after another intervention by the United States and its allies?
HILIK BAR: We cannot know, but we don't have a chance - we don't have another choice to make, actually. I think that Israel, who stand at the front of fighting terror, have to have a coalition together with Australia, together with the US and Europe, understanding that there is extreme, fundamentalistic Islamic jihad elements that want to live here, not next to us, to us, to you and us, but instead of us. And I think we have to make a joint effort against terror and we don't have any other choice.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Is it helpful that Israel's Prime Minister says that Hamas and ISIS are branches of the same poison tree when one day you're going to have to negotiate with Hamas?
HILIK BAR: No, I think that the Prime Minister of Israel is right. By the way, I'm from the Israeli Opposition; it's not natural and obvious for us to support the Prime Minister or to say that he's right. But Hamas is acting the same as ISIS is doing in other countries. You see the executions of people in the middle of Gaza, you see the unacceptable behaviour, the shooting missiles on civilians in Israel. They are belonging to the same family - again, the family that want to live here instead of us, instead of Israeli, instead of Australians. They don't respect and not acknowledge any other way of life but their own and I think that it's sometimes hard to see that they are cut from the same tree, but it's actually, unfortunately, the truth. By the way, as for speaking with Hamas, we will happily speak with Hamas if Hamas will do what Fatah did 20 years ago and that is to understand that we can live here next to each other, to understand you cannot eliminate Israel and you cannot make us go away from here. I remind you that Fatah were a terror group many years ago and they made the shift that Hamas will have to do if it want Israel and other parts of the world to speak with Hamas.
CHRIS UHLMANN: But can you live next to each other? We've just seen the war in Gaza and has that done real damage to Israel's international standing?
HILIK BAR: Yeah, but not all the Palestinians are Hamas. I remind you that President Abbas and other factions in the Palestinian politic recognise Israel trying to negotiate with us. I prove - I also remind you that Israel made peace with much larger enemies than the Palestinians before with Egypt and with Jordan and we proved ourself that we can live peacefully in our region.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Is the collective punishment though of people in Gaza self-defeating for Israel?
HILIK BAR: It's not a collective punishment. I know the idea from a captain in the Israel IDF. The IDF is defending Israel. Its aim is not to hurt innocent civilians. Actually, this is the aim of Hamas, who is shooting thousands of missiles on innocent Israeli civilians. But there is casualties of war and we're all very, very sad for it, but when you have a terror organisation that shoot missiles from school, from UN facilities, from UNRWA facilities, from mosque. They have no other mean but to try and hurt their own citizens in order for the world to see that Israel is hurting innocent civilians. But Israeli is committed to defence our citizens and allow them to have a blue sky, free of rockets, like you have here in Australia.
CHRIS UHLMANN: On Sunday, Israel laid claim to nearly 400 hectares of West Bank land. How will building more settlements bring about peace?
HILIK BAR: I agree with you, it's a very poor decision. I think that the future of this territory should be decided upon a two-state solution between us and the Palestinians. We in the Labor Party, in the opposition to Netanyahu, are against any unilateral annexation. It think it's bad for Israel, it's bad for building trust between us and the Palestinians and we in the Israeli Labor Party will object this annexation of 400 hectares if it will come to the Knesset and we'll try to fight this poor decision in every win we will have.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Should Israel embrace the Arab Peace Initiative and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as a partner for peace?
HILIK BAR: Definitely, yes. As for the Arab Peace Initiative, I think one of the poorest and the wrong mistake that Israel ever did diplomatically is not reply to the Arab Peace Initiative. We can say yes, we can say no and we can say yes, but we won't change this and that, but not replying for 12 year to the Arab Peace Initiative is not something that we can and should allow ourself. By the way, if I was Prime Minister, I wouldn't say a total yes to the Arab Peace Initiative. It's have a lot of problems as for Israel. But when 57 countries, Muslim countries, and 22 Arab countries coming to Israel and make an offer, Israel should reply.
As for President Mahmoud Abbas, he's not a perfect partner, but you will never find a perfect partner when you are talking about an enemy and Israel is now making the perfect the enemy of the good. Abbas is a good partner, he's a fair partner, more than Yasser Arafat that was before him and definitely I can bet more than the future leadership that the Palestinians are planning for Israel. And this is why we should strengthen Abbas at the expense of the Hamas, see him as our partner and go to a long way of negotiation with him as soon as possible.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Are there extremists on both sides of the Israel-Palestinian divide that don't want to see peace?
HILIK BAR: Yeah, absolutely. There is an extreme right-wing in Israel that I cannot say that he don't want to see peace, but he's not willing to pay the necessary price and to make the necessary concessions in order to have future Palestinian states, which mean that he don't really promote peace. There is a lot of extremists in the Palestinian side, not only Hamas, but also other, but I can promise you that the majority of Israelis and the majority of the Palestinians are totally for a two-state solution and understand that a two-state solution is the only viable and acceptable solution between us and the Palestinian. No other solution, definitely not the one-state solution, will happen or we will allow it.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Hilik Bar, thank you.
HILIK BAR: Thank you so much.