A Friendlier Australian Government…writes Isi Leibler

September 8, 2013 by Isi Leibler
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Australia’s election results are good news for the Israel-Australia relationship. Labor party incumbent Kevin Rudd, who held office for less than three months following a coup against former PM Julia Gillard, lost in a landslide, bringing an end to six years of Labor Government.

Isi Leibler

Isi Leibler

Rudd is a political chameleon who abandoned Australia’s long-standing pro-Israel position when he previously served as Prime Minister from 2007 to 2010.

The victorious Tony Abbott of the center-right Liberal party is an outspoken friend of the Jewish State. He has pledged to improve relations with Israel, toughen the government’s approach toward terrorist organizations and end financial support for organizations connected to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign against Israel.

These results therefore represent a sea change in Israel-Australia relations. Before assuming office in 2007, Prime Minister Rudd portrayed himself as a Christian Zionist. But in office, he launched a campaign to downgrade Australia’s relationship toward Israel. He reduced Australian support for Israel at the UN and adopted policies akin to those of hostile European countries.

Julia Gillard, who displaced him in 2010, made efforts to revive the friendly relations with Israel. But after Bob Carr was appointed as Foreign Minister in March 2012, the relationship again began to decline.

Carr, a former State Premier, was a founding member of the parliamentary Labor Friends of Israel and had previously been considered a friend of the Jewish community. However, in 2003, he awarded the Sydney Peace Prize to Palestinian propagandist Hannah Ashrawi, and since then has become increasingly critical, insisting that he understood better than Israelis what was in their best interest.

After visiting Israel in August 2012, Carr intensified the campaign to solicit support for Australia’s UN Security Council candidature by cozying up to Arab governments, even sending a delegation to Iran.

Distancing Australia was obviously crucial to win the Arab vote and he succeeded in compelling Prime Minister Gillard to reverse her decision to vote against accepting the Palestinian Authority as a member state at the UN General Assembly, stating: “I don’t apologize for the fact that Australia has interests in the Arab world. If we had voted no, that would have been a heavy blow to our interests in over 20 countries. The truth is they all see this as a bedrock issue.”

Foreign Minister Carr stunned the Australian Jewish community a few weeks ago when he told Moslems at a Sydney mosque, “I’ve been to Ramallah, I’ve spoken to the Palestinian leadership, and we support their aspirations to have a Palestinian state in the context of a Middle East peace…we say unequivocally, all settlements on Palestinian land are illegal under international law and should cease.”

Australia’s Jewish community leaders condemned the statement and the AIJAC, the Australian Jewish lobby equivalent of AIPAC, accused Carr of having “altered a long-standing bipartisan policy in Australia by repeatedly asserting a contentious and disputed legal claim…which…potentially undermines progress towards a negotiated two state resolution to the conflict.”

Australia’s long-standing friendship with Israel dates back to Australian troops serving in Palestine in both World Wars. From 1948 until recently, both the Labor and Liberal parties consistently allied themselves with the Jewish state (the only major aberration was Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s hostility during the Yom Kippur War).

Both parties also supported broader Jewish concerns. In 1962, Australia became the first country in the world to raise the issue of Soviet Jewry at the UN, condemning anti-Semitism and calling for the right of Jews to emigrate. Successive governments made major global contributions towards ameliorating the plight of Soviet Jews. Australia was directly involved in efforts to rescind the infamous 1975 UN resolution that equated Zionism with racism. It also served as an intermediary for Jewish leaders seeking to promote diplomatic relations between Israel and Asian countries.

Australian Jewry, which numbers approximately 120,000, includes the highest proportion of Holocaust survivors of any diaspora community and is one of the most Zionist Jewish communities in the world. 15,000 Australians – more than 10% of the entire community – have made aliya and strengthen the relationship.

The “Lucky Country” enabled hard working Jewish immigrants, many of whom were penniless Holocaust survivors, to prosper. Whilst a Jewish underclass exists, a number emerged to become the leading commercial and industrial giants in the nation, many of whom were appointed to prominent roles in public life including two Governor Generals. The immigrants created a thriving Jewish cultural and religious community establishing a broad range of Jewish day schools ranging from Chabad to Reform.

Community leaders are united and do not hesitate to confront their government when they consider it biased or guilty of applying a double standard against Israel. The community can take much of the credit for its country’s historic support for Israel.

Traditionally, most Jews tended to support Labor rather than the Liberal party which was originally perceived as being aloof towards Jews and even anti-Semitic. However this has changed in recent years and Jews are more inclined to direct their support according to individual economic and social predilections.

This week’s election is a case in point. Even though Israel was not a major electoral issue, it is believed that because of the government’s hostility toward Israel, Australian Jewish voters went even further than the general public in expressing a broad lack of confidence in Prime Minister Rudd and the Labor leadership.

The community came out strongly for the Liberal party and Tony Abbott, who has been Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives since 2009. Abbott has been a passionate friend of Israel since his first visit to the country as a young man and subsequently as an MP prior to being elected leader of the party. He is a protégé of former Prime Minister John Howard, recognized as having been one of Israel’s greatest champions amongst world statesmen. It is anticipated that the new government headed by Abbot will foster robust support for Israel on par with that of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

It is also ironical that, whereas the former Labor Government abandoned Israel in order to procure Arab support for its candidature to the UN Security Council, the Arabs will have effectively guaranteed the appointment of what will in all likelihood be the most pro-Israel government on the Council.

The Australian Jewish community leaders now face the challenge of restoring Australia’s bi-partisan policy towards Israel. Jewish organizations, particularly AIJAC, must focus their efforts on restoring ties with Labor leaders. Despite the powerful influence of 500,000 Moslems in a number of key electorates, most Labor MPs retain positive attitudes the Jewish state and the prospects for restoring Labor’s commitment to Israel are good.

Comments

10 Responses to “A Friendlier Australian Government…writes Isi Leibler”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    Gil, We could argue in circles about man-made global warming, or climate change, and not get anywhere, so I won’t bother going there. There are so many other issues for me that are also important and the result of this election insofar as they are concerned is disastrous from my standpoint. I agree with much of your writing on Israel, however we’ll have to agree to differ on this one.
    And, Sam, Christopher Pyne!!!!!!! He’s like an aggressive fox terrier who won’t stop barking and snapping at the heels of whoever passes by. Can’t abide him to the point where I have to use the mute button when he’s talking for fear of irritation melt-down.

  2. Eze says:

    It feels as though Australia’ s average IQ has dropped by at least 20 points.
    It’s even a bigger shame that some of the Jewish community have followed suit.

    • Gil Solomon says:

      Eze,

      Your comments reveal to all that the only one who has a 20 point drop in IQ is you.

      You have not the faintest grasp of reality. Thankfully, most Australians in general and the Jewish community in particular do and have voted to rid themselves of Rudd and the Labor Party.

  3. Eze says:

    You actually feel ok about Chris Pyne ??

    • Sam says:

      Having met Christopher Pyne you can be assured that he is a very stronger supporter of Israel and an excellent representative to the people, of not only his Constituency, but of the entire country

      • Otto Waldmann says:

        NSWJBD has been inviting scores of politicians to make presentations of their views and their party’s views on Israel.
        Carr, Greiner, Swan, etc., but NO ONE has been as passionately affectionate about Israel and Jewish ideals in general as Pyne !!!
        I remember that Swan even said that personally he is in favour of Zionism etc., but that this is his very personal view and this should be known only in private and that he did not want his Party to know it……
        And Pyne never failed us !!

  4. Liat Nagar says:

    Isi, I’m sure you will understand the conundrum some Australians face, and I am one of them, insofar as electing a government sympathetic to Israel and also good for the Australian people. Whereas it’s true the Coalition Liberal Party will enable stronger ties to be forged between Australia and Israel (and I’m all for that), it will unfortunately not be so good for the under-privileged of this country or the fate of the land for our future generations where climate change is concerned. The Liberal Party and big business corporations will reign to the detriment of good future development. I hope I am proved wrong. I am, however, extremely glad to see the back of Bob Carr, who,as you so rightly point out, has been pivotal in setting back relations between Australia and Israel, and who is also far too ignorant and egoistic to be a Foreign Minister.

    • Gil Solomon says:

      liat,

      Man made “global warming”, now called “climate change” (in order to have a bet both ways in case cold snaps occur) will go down as one of the greatest hoaxes of the 21st Century.

      It is a pity you’ve fallen for it and that a whole generation of children have been brainwashed into believing this nonsense.

      • ben eleijah says:

        The evidence is quite convincing. You should expose the evidence if it is a hoax.

        So far as Israel goes, Rudd expelled the Israeli diplomats for the use of forged Australian passports. If Israel finds Egypt is using forged Israeli documents will it not act ? And Australian governments toe the American line on Israel. The moment USA dumps Israel, Australians governments will follow suit.

  5. Lynne Newington says:

    I wish you all the best understanding the status quo that it goes far beyong Australian politics.

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