The elevation of Julia Gillard to position of Australia’s new Prime Minister has been welcomed, indeed blessed, by both the Zionist and American lobbies. Gillard can certainly be relied upon to follow her predecessor’s attitude towards the Jewish state and Washington, namely that independent thought is frowned upon and obedience is the necessary Australian way.
ANYONE who expects foreign policy to move to the left under Julia Gillard will be disappointed.
In her first interaction with the public as Labor leader, she made a point of saying thank you to the armed forces. “We are a grateful nation,” she said. She acknowledged the sacrifice of our troops and thanked them for keeping us safe, keeping the peace and honouring the US alliance.
You can’t get much clearer than that. It is all part of a well-considered national security persona she has carefully crafted over the past three years.
Gillard is the first figure notionally from the left of the Labor Party to lead the party in government and become prime minister.
The reason there was an informal bar on someone from the Left becoming leader for so many decades was that the Labor Left was tainted by anti-Americanism and, before that, during the Cold War, by an ambivalent attitude to communists in the union movement and a sense of unreliability generally on national security.
Gillard has moved to create her own positive national security identity bang in the middle of the mainstream.
For several years she has been attending the Australian American Leadership Dialogue.
I heard her speak at the State Department in Washington in July 2008 and she was clear and declarative about her attachment to the US alliance, not only for its contribution to Australian security, but – as John Curtin put it – for its contribution to civilisation and civilised values.
Similarly, a year ago Gillard attended the first Australia Israel Leadership Forum in Israel despite a vigorous left-wing campaign to talk her out of attending. As deputy prime minister, she was the most senior figure in the life of the Rudd government to visit Israel. While critical of elements of its settlement policy in the West Bank, she was forthright, strong and effusive about Australia’s friendship with Israel.
Challenged about deployment in Afghanistan during a radio interview, she completely supported Australia’s involvement there.
None of this is to suggest she is a hawk or that foreign affairs have been a central part of her persona.
Her message in foreign affairs and national security is one of continuity and reassurance.
The lady’s not for lurching.
Jewish leaders welcomed the appointment of Australia’s first female prime minister, who has been supportive of Israel.
Julia Gillard was elected unopposed in a Labor Party caucus meeting Thursday after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd agreed to a leadership ballot triggered by a slump in the polls.
Gillard, from Labor’s left faction, was widely considered an unknown quantity on Israel when she was elected deputy leader in 2006.
But she “stood like a rock during the Gaza incursion [in 2009], reiterating again and again that Hamas began the conflict by rocketing Israel,” said Michael Danby, a Jewish lawmaker in the Labor government.
Dr. Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, agreed.
“Having been to Sderot, unlike so many of Israel’s critics, she understood and defended Israel’s right and need to defend its civilian population against repeated and indiscriminate missile attacks from Gaza,” Rubenstein said.
In a congratulatory letter issued Thursday, Executive Council of Australian Jewry President Robert Goot praised Gillard’s “principled stands” and “close understanding” of Jewish issues.
Gillard, who first visited Israel in 2005, led the Australian delegation in June 2009 to the inaugural Australia Israel Leadership Forum, a high-profile bilateral conference organized by the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange. She met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Jerusalem, and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah.
Rudd, a staunch supporter of Israel, recently had come under fire from Jewish leaders for expelling an official from the Israeli Embassy in Canberra over the Dubai passports affair. Gillard stayed largely silent on the controversial affair.
An election is likely later this year.