The foreign editor of The Australian, Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan, seems to be suggesting that Australia’s Israel lobby, referred to euphemistically as “some friends of Israel,” was at least a factor in, if not a party to, the decision to oust Prime Minister Kevin Rudd:
“In some ways [Gillard] has been even more courageous than Rudd in staring down the Left of her party on foreign policy. There was a vociferous campaign from the Left to stop her from attending the Australia Israel Leadership Forum in Jerusalem in 2008 [sic: 2009]. But she defied it and gave a fine address at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel celebrating not only Australia and Israel’s friendship, but also the common values of the two nations. Similarly, during Operation Cast Lead, when Israel attacked the Hamas rockets [!!!???] launched from the Gaza Strip, Gillard was acting prime minister and steadfastly, day by day, defended Israel’s right to self-defence against overwhelming commentariat hostility. When some friends of Israel raised this with Rudd, in contrast to what they thought was his cheap resort to anti-Israel actions and rhetoric in expelling an Israeli diplomat recently, Rudd was furious. He was the one on the phone to Gillard all the time during this period, he told them. Oddly, the expulsion of the Israeli diplomat may be the single foreign policy issue that did Rudd the most harm in domestic political terms. It had 3 deleterious political results for Rudd. It was seen by Labor professionals as likely to help open the pockets of the friends of Israel for Tony Abbott’s Liberals. It was also seen as a sign of Rudd not sticking with a friend under pressure. And, perhaps most significantly, many within Labor’s Right saw it as another episode in which Rudd refused to solicit, or listen to, their advice, making a unilateral and ill-considered decision.” (Continuity in foreign affairs but questions remain, 1/7/10)
Let’s tease this out:
Sheridan claims that Rudd’s decision to expel an Israeli diplomat/Mossad agent as a sign of his anger over Israel’s use of Australian passports in its assassination of Hamas member Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January has in some way harmed him domestically. How so? Sheridan can hardly be referring to a public backlash – there was none that we know of. The only possible construction here is that Rudd’s standing with the lobby was damaged. So how could it be said to have harmed him? Surely only by being involved at some level in last week’s coup against him?
According to Sheridan, the plotters of the Labor Right in federal parliament, Mark Arbib, Bill Shorten, Joe Ludwig and David Feeney, all known supporters of Israel, were motivated, at least in part, by a concern that the lobby was sufficiently angry with Rudd to consider redirecting its money to the Liberals in the lead-up to the coming federal election. The importance of lobby donations and fund-raising to Labor’s re-election prospects had been underlined by Herald journalist Peter Hartcher in his June 22 report on Rudd’s bid to appease lobby leaders over dinner at The Lodge on June 3 : “When Labor approached key groups to hold fund-raising events for the coming election, they feigned busyness, but it was a deliberate and unmistakeable retaliation.” (See my 22/6/10 post The Best Israel Policy Money Can Buy)
In addition, when Sheridan asserts that the Labor Right saw the expulsion as yet another episode in which Rudd refused to solicit, or listen to, their advice, the implication appears to be that Arbib, Shorten, Ludwig, Feeney and Co had actually voiced the lobby’s concerns on the matter to Rudd but had been rebuffed. That this was an issue for the lobby leaders invited to The Lodge to dine with the prime minister also emerged in Hartcher’s report: “On the passports affair Rudd stood his ground. He said he was personally hurt by Israel’s use of Australian passports [and] had a duty to passport holders…”
It is reasonable then to assume from what Sheridan has written that, to one degree or another, Australia’s Israel lobby was a factor in, or even perhaps a player in, Rudd’s removal from the prime ministership. If so, this is a truly extraordinary and deeply disturbing development in Australia’s political history and merits the closest possible examination. To quote the anonymous “Australian official” in an earlier Hartcher piece: “It wouldn’t matter whether it was John Howard or Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott in the prime minister’s chair… [the Israelis] know they’ve got us by the balls… partly because of the strength of the Israel lobby…” (Betrayed PM should not be taken for granted, SMH, 26/2/10)
Maybe now, in La Guillotine, the lobby has finally found the Australian prime minister of their dreams. After all, they’ve had their eye on her for some time now: “As one Jewish leader put it, ‘She wants to be Australia’s first female prime minister and she knows that means currying favour with the Jews‘.” (Australia renews its love affair with Israel, Dan Goldberg, thejc.com, 10/12/09)