Thursday, 14 February 2013

Australia-Israel relations turning for the worse

Jerusalem, The Jerusalem Post reported this morning, is not anticipating that what it calls "the incident" involving the death of 34-year-old Ben Zygier "will create any diplomatic tension with Canberra". No diplomatic tension maybe, but a significant undermining of a broader Australian political support for Israel there certainly will be.
A weakening in an almost unconditional support by Australian governments of all complexions for Israel since that country's foundation has been noticeable since an investigation found Israeli authorities used Australian passports in an assassination plot in 2010. 
In evidence to a Senate committee in June that year, then Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade head Dennis Richardson defended the Government's decision to expel an Israeli diplomat over the use of forged Australian passports. As well as using forged Australian passports, Israel also misused an Australian passport in 2004, Mr Richardson told the committee, saying the country's actions required a firm response.

"This did not require a slap on the wrist. This required a firm statement by Australia about our sovereignty."If we weren't prepared to take firm action against this background, what price do you put on sovereignty?"
Mr Richardson said Israel blatantly breached an agreement with Australian authorities.
"In 2006 an agreement was entered into between an Australian agency and an Israeli agency about how things would be conducted."Against that background earlier this year, Israel again misused Australian passports in the most flagrant and blatant of ways."We are entitled to have our own national interest, and unfortunately in this case a firm friend, a very good friend, did not abide by the principles of friendship."
The case of Mr Zygier and the reason for his imprisonment under an assumed name in a high security Israeli jail are still shrouded in secrecy but it appears that his possession of Australian citizenship was a reason for his involvement with Israel's security service. And it is clear that any agreement "between an Australian agency and an Israeli agency about how things would be conducted" was completely outside the use of normal diplomatic channels.
This was not a matter of diplomats exchanging information that could be passed on to politicians but of one lot of spooks telling secrets to another lot of spooks with the public of both countries definitely to be kept in ignorance.
The ABC's Foreign Correspondent program, to its great credit, has broken the silence.
That program's disclosures will reinforce the growing sentiment within the Australian Labor Party that believes Australia should no longer slavishly support Israel in forums like the United Nations that saw Prime Minister Julia Gillard rebuffed recently by her colleagues.

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