But it is an immoral position that betrays fundamental political, moral and ethical values that Labor used to understand pretty well."
So writes Greg Sheridan, foreign editor of The Australian, who's long been a staunch supporter of Israel, in his column of 9 March, which argues that the Zygier affair "brings to the fore the strange pathologies in Australian opinion concerning Israel. It also underlines how badly the Labor government has gone off course in its conception of Israel, and Israel's place in the world" and claims that former Minister for Foreign Affair Kevin Rudd and current incumbent of that post Bob Carr are responsible, along with the still baneful influence of an earlier holder of the office, Gareth Evans, and the mindset that believes,with ex-President Jimmy Carter, that
"The heart and mind of every Muslim is affected by whether or not the Israel-Palestine issue is dealt with."Observes Sheridan:
'Last year in a cabinet revolt, Julia Gillard was overridden on a key UN vote. Australia was set to vote no to elevating the status of the Palestinian Authority to an observer state at the UN. Carr and Rudd opposed Gillard's position (though Rudd was not a player in this vote). Under the baleful influence of [then Minister for Foreign Affairs] Gareth Evans, a tremendously negative force on contemporary Labor foreign policy who offers only a bureaucratic version of conventional wisdom (and conventional wisdom is often wrong), Canberra changed its vote and abstained.
In its own terms, this was a very bad move. There will never be a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute until both sides compromise over an agreement. This UN move, along with many tens of millions of dollars of increased Australian aid to the Palestinians, gives them something for nothing. It helps convince the Palestinian leadership that the way to success doesn't involve compromise and negotiation. Instead the international community will do their job for them. It is a destructive syndrome.
Then, in the Australia-UK Ministerial Meeting in January, Carr ratcheted up Australia's rhetoric on Israel. For the first time, his office briefed journalists, Canberra was describing all Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal. Also, we were calling on President Barack Obama to lead a new peace effort on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
To simply call all Israeli settlements illegal is simplistic, reductionist, almost childish. It jumbles together in one category Jewish suburbs of East Jerusalem, large settlement blocks envisaged under every serious negotiation as staying with Israel, and those settlements illegal under Israeli law. It fails to recognise that there has been no physical expansion of settlement territory since 2004, that settlements occupy less than 3 per cent of the West Bank, that any settlement territory kept by Israel will be matched by land given to a Palestinian state from Israel proper and that settlements have never before been an obstacle to negotiations. Australia's position is also wrong in international law. Jordan, which formerly controlled the territory, is not the sovereign power and UN Security Council resolutions require a negotiated outcome.
But why take this position at all, except to kick sand in the Israelis' eyes? China claims all of the South China Sea almost right up to the Philippines shore, yet Canberra maintains a strict neutrality. If Israel is a friend, why the gratuitous aggro?' [Emphasis added here and below]Sheridan points to the current unrest in countries bordering Israel, and how that renders demands that Israel urgently seeks peae with the Palestinians unfair and unrealistic:
'At the moment, Syria does not exist as a nation ... its army has abandoned the border regions with Israel. Egypt is in terrible internal turmoil. Its army has effectively lost control of the vast Sinai area that borders Israel. No one can know what its future government will be like. And that's only the tip of the iceberg. The Palestinian leadership is murderously divided between the West Bank and Gaza. Surely it is intellectually fraudulent to imagine that any Israeli government could make a comprehensive peace in this context.
Underlying this is the cardinal doctrine of conventional wisdom among Guardian readers, UN habitues, European think tank staff and the like, and that is the implausible notion Israel is at the heart of Middle East disputes and the West's troubles with Islam....
Just because an idea is widely uttered at the UN doesn't mean it embodies any reality...."The entire article is available here