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September 12, 2013 - Image 45

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-09-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

>> analysis

Friend Of Israel

Australians elect new prime minister; change in Mideast policy expected.

Is! Leibler
Israel Hayom

A

ustralia's election results are
good news for the Israel-
Australia relationship. Labor
party incumbent Kevin Rudd, who held
office for less than three months follow-
ing an intra-party political "coup" against
former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, lost
in a landslide, bringing an end to six years
of Labor government. 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 terror-
ist organizations and end financial support
for organizations connected to the boy-
cott, divestment and sanctions campaign
against Israel.
These results represent a sea change in
Israel-Australia relations. Before assum-
ing office in 2007, Rudd portrayed him-
self 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 U.N. 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
activist Hanan 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 sup-
port for Australia's U.N. Security Council
candidature by cozying up to Arab govern-
ments, even sending a delegation to Iran.
Distancing Australia was obviously crucial
to win the Arab vote, and he succeeded in
compelling Gillard to reverse her decision
to vote against accepting the Palestinian
Authority as a member state at the U.N.
General Assembly, stating: "I don't apolo-

gize 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."
Carr stunned the Australian Jewish
community a few weeks ago when he
told Muslims 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 interna-
tional law and should cease:'
Australia's Jewish community lead-
ers condemned the statement and the
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council
(AIJAC), the Australian Jewish lobby
equivalent of the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee, accused Carr of hav-
ing "altered a long-standing bipartisan
policy in Australia by repeatedly asserting
a contentious and disputed legal claim ...
which ... potentially undermines progress
toward a negotiated two-state resolution to
the conflict:'

Historic Friendship

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 U.N.,
condemning anti-Semitism and calling for
the right of Jews to emigrate. Successive
governments made major global contribu-
tions toward ameliorating the plight of
Soviet Jews. Australia was directly involved
in efforts to rescind the infamous 1975
U.N. resolution that equated Zionism with
racism. It also served as an intermediary
for Jewish leaders seeking to promote dip-
lomatic relations between Israel and Asian
countries.
Australian Jewry, which numbers
approximately 120,000, includes the high-
est proportion of Holocaust survivors of
any Diaspora community and is one of the
most Zionist Jewish communities in the
world. About 15,000 Australians — more
than 10 percent of the entire community
— have made aliyah and strengthen the

relationship.
The "Lucky Country" enabled hard-
working Jewish immigrants, many of
whom were penniless Holocaust survivors,
to prosper. While 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 governors general. The
immigrants created a thriving Jewish cul-
tural and religious community, establish-
ing 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 sup-
port the Labor rather than the Liberal
party, which was originally perceived as
being aloof toward Jews and even anti-
Semitic. However, this has changed in
recent years, and Jews are more inclined to
direct their support according to individu-
al economic and social predilections.
This week's election is a case in point.
Even though Israel was not a major elec-
toral 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 Rudd and the
Labor leadership.
The community came out strongly for
the Liberal party and Tony Abbott, who
has been opposition leader 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 protege
of former Prime Minister John Howard,
recognized as having been one of Israel's
greatest champions among world states-
men. It is anticipated that the new govern-
ment headed by Abbot will foster robust
support for Israel on par with that of
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
It is also ironic that, whereas the former
Labor government abandoned Israel in
order to procure Arab support for its can-
didature to the U.N. 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 lead-

Tony Abbott

ers now face the challenge of restoring
Australia's bipartisan policy toward Israel.
Jewish organizations, particularly AIJAC,
must focus their efforts on restoring ties
with Labor leaders. Despite the powerful
influence of 500,000 Muslims in a number
of key electorates, most Labor MPs retain
positive attitudes toward the Jewish State
and the prospects for restoring Labor's
commitment to Israel are good.



Isi Leibler's website can be viewed at www.
wordfromjerusalem.com.

Israelis Are Happier Than
Americans, Survey Finds
(Times of Israel) An annual survey has
ranked Israel the 11th happiest country.
The World Happiness Report, published
on Sept. 8, has Denmark, Norway and
Switzerland in the top three spots.
Israel jumped three spots from last year,
coming in just behind Australia (10th)
and overtaking the United States, which
dropped 6 spots at 17th. The United
Kingdom placed 22nd.
Israelis are much happier when com-
pared to their Mideast neighbors. Jordan
ranked 74th, Lebanon 97th and Egypt
130th. War-ravaged Syria ranked 148th.
Togo, in West Africa, had the least
happy citizens at 156th.
The report measured several factors
including health, family and job security,
and social factors like political freedom,
social networks and lack of government
corruption. It was a collaborative effort
between Vancouver School of Economics,
the Canadian Institute for Advanced
Research, London School of Economics,
and Columbia University.

jI11

September 12 • 2013

45

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