The diplomatic relationship between Australia and Israel has resumed on its normal course, less than three months after Stephen Smith expelled an Australian diplomat from Canberra.
And despite a frosty few months, the two countries – which both share a desire to see Iran’s nuclear weapons program halted immediately – never ceased to share intelligence on the rogue state.
In a wide-ranging interview with The AJN during a campaign stop in Melbourne, Smith spoke about the resumption of that relationship. He made no pledges about the foreign policy direction a future Gillard government would take, but spoke in depth about some of the decisions made over the past almost three years.
“I am now very confident that things are now back to business as usual,” he said of the diplomatic ties between Australia and Israel.
“Often when you have a difficult issue that you’ve got to manage, your capacity to manage that and then to move reasonably quickly off it, reflects the strength of the relationship.
“Yes it was a difficult time and I obviously thought very carefully about all of the issues and came to the decision that, as I said publicly, we could not turn a blind eye to what had occurred.
“I’m very confident now that in terms of agency-to-agency relationship, government-to-government, nation-to-nation, it is business as usual.”
He added that at no time during the diplomatic impasse, did the two countries stop cooperating to quash the rogue Iranian regime.
“One area [of the Australia-Israel relationship] we did not want to see disturbed was the ongoing cooperation and exchange of information on Iran,” he said.
Asked whether he thought the forthcoming direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians means that the time for peace is right, Smith showed some trademark diplomacy.
“I think your attitude has got to be that it is always right,” he said. “You always have to try and take the opportunity and often when things appear to be at their worst is often a time when you can move forward.”
“We’re very supportive of President [Barack] Obama’s efforts, we’re very supportive of Ambassador [George] Mitchell’s efforts and we make the point to all of the players in the Middle East … that it is absolutely essential that we get long-term enduring peace.
“The issues are complex, complicated and there are strong views respectively on both sides, but we can’t give up because solving these Middle East issues is very important to peace and security, peace and stability throughout the entire world,” he said.