Australia’s “uninhibited affection” for Israel

I wrote recently about the Australia Israel Leadership Forum, a love-fest between the political and media elites in both countries.

Haaretz writer Amir Oren offers a Zionist perspective on the largely unreported meetings:

Last month the report “Eliminating Nuclear Threats: A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers” was published by the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. Heading the commission were former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans and former Japanese foreign minister Yoriko Kawaguchi. Also on the committee were 13 statesman and experts, among them former American defense secretary William Perry, retired German chief of staff General Klaus Naumann (a good friend of Israel who served as head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Military Committee) and Turki Al Faisal, who headed Saudi intelligence for a quarter of a century. This group of people is privy to many secrets and have access to all the latest information.

The launch of the commission’s report was marked during a flight by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to Japan. About two weeks previously, Rudd, his deputy prime minister Julia Gillard and figures from the entire political spectrum met with a delegation of Knesset members, academics and journalists who visited Sidney and Melbourne as guests of the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum headed by Albert Dadon. The abundant friendship for Israel was true and profound, crossing parties and circles.

If in Israel it is often noted that in the 1948 war an entire percent of the population was lost – 6,000 out of 600,000 – in Australia the fatality rate during World War I was even higher: 55,000 soldiers out of a population of less than five million, and an army of about half a million who served the British Empire. There they also remember well World War II and the fear of defeat after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the British failure in Singapore and the Japanese stronghold in Indonesia.

From the conquest of Be’er Sheva under Gen. Edmund Allenby to commando operations in western Iraq, Australians have played a positive role in Israel’s history. Terror is perceived as a common enemy, with no illusions that bringing succor to feelings of injustice and discrimination will save Australian tourists from an attack on a nightclub in Bali.

The measures taken against terrorism in Australia are more sober and less panicky than the measures taken against biological or agricultural pollution that might enter the country and contaminate flocks or grazing land. Alas for the traveler in whose pocket an inspector finds a snack or an apple. Every tourist is suspected of being a successor to Tiger Woods, lest he has in his possession golf shoes or clubs that have touched infected foreign lawns.

This background of uninhibited Australian affection, which has grown even stronger during outgoing Ambassador James Larsen’s tour of duty in Tel Aviv, negates a priori any possibility of depicting the Evans-Kawaguchi report as hostile toward Israel. It is proportional, fair and does not attack Israel or aspire to the unattainable. It only proposes withdrawing the exemption extended in practice to Israel over the past four decades.

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