Today Tony Abbott addressed the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce. It’s worth picking up a few things he said there. Direct quotes are marked.
After waxing lyrical about Australia’s ‘Judaeo-Christian heritage’ (a nonsense word that is tossed around all too often by people trying to grab the votes of Christian – or Jewish – people), Abbott said that Israel was ‘a bastion of western civ in a part of the world where the rights of minorities and the value of respectful dissent is not appreciated’. Of course, he said, ‘the Israeli government from time to time makes mistakes,’ but ‘Australians should appreciate that a diminished Israel diminishes the west … it diminishes us.’
It was ‘somewhat disappointing, given the deep affinity between the Australian people and the Israeli people that the current Australian government has somewhat weakened our longstanding bipartisanship on Israel’. This was, presumably, a reference to our government’s recent condemnation of Israel’s boarding of a flotilla of aid boats bound for Gaza.
Abbott unequivocally stated the Coalition’s position. It has ‘an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.’ It would ‘never support a one-sided UN resolution against Israel to curry favour with an anti-Israel majority in the General Assembly’. (At this point there was loud applause.) Confirming his opposition to the government’s stance on the flotilla raids, Abbott promised that a Coalition government would ‘never overreact to any international incident because we appreciate that Israel is under existential threat in a way that no almost no other country in the world is’.
He went on to speak of the economy, which can be quickly summarised as 2 parts condemnation of Labor, 1 part declaration of conservative values (described by Abbott as ‘genial and pragmatic’) and 1 part flattery of the Australian Jewish business community. All that is pretty much expected – but let’s look at his earlier statements.
Abbott has signalled clearly that it will support Israel no matter what it does. The promise to never condemn Israel for any international incident, and to commit to Israel’s security, is absolute. Should Israel choose to board another boat, and perhaps use deadly force against those on board, it will have Australia’s support under a Coalition government. Should Israel choose to break off the internationally-supported peace process with Palestinians living in the country, it will have Australia’s support. Abbott stopped short of saying that Australia would go to war for Israel, but the implication was clear.
I’ve attempt to present this as neutrally as possible, using Abbott’s own words, to allow people to make up their own minds how they feel about what he has said.
I’ll confine my comments to two questions I think ought to be considered. How will Arab Australians, Palestinians and Israel’s neighbours react to this promise? And what might that mean for Australia?