By Denis Bright
Although no formal alliance exists between Australia and Israel, bilateral relations are strong at a national political level. The accord extends to both sides of politics. Each year Israel hosts visits by state and federal politicians as well as numerous study tours. Members of the Left faction of the Labor Movement are not afraid to take advantage of the hospitality offered.
At home, Israel attracts considerable sympathy from eyewitness news media coverage of isolated terrorist incidents in Israeli cities.
Long before the arrival of the 24 Hour News Cycle, folklore was generated by the involvement of the Australian and British light horse regiments in the occupation of Palestine in the First World War. A mandate to administer Palestine for the League of Nations and the UN Trusteeship Council continued until 1948.
As Foreign Minister and President of the Security Council during 1948-49, Dr. Evatt welcomed the partitioning of Palestine and the formation of the State of Israel. To its credit, Australia favoured the internationalization of the City of Jerusalem to respect the spiritual traditions of the holy city.
Australia has been described as the midwife at the birth of the State of Israel in 1948. In the early 1940s, a group of Australian Jewish businessmen lobbied Australia’s then-foreign minister, Doc Evatt. Their quest was to champion the Zionist cause – the creation of an independent Jewish nation-state.
Evatt eventually became deeply sympathetic to the group’s vision. As a leading figure in the United Nations some years later, he actively pursued the state’s establishment.
In the 1940s, Australia accepted an influx of post-war European Jewish migration. Most new arrivals were refugees, escaping the ravages of the Holocaust. They translated their loss into a financial and moral commitment to Israel. This connection has continued into the 21st century, ensuring Israel has encompassed all aspects of Jewish life in Australia from synagogues to schools and sports groups.
Nostalgia for Israel is embedded in publication of The Wattle and the Olive by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
This nostalgia for Israel as a revered model of a dynamic multicultural state is a strong part of the conservative tradition in both Australia and the US.
The Special Report comes with a record of the photo opportunity between strategic leaders of Australia and Israel.
Sponsorship from the Australian and international business sector for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute contributed to the preparation of The Olive and the Wattle and its ongoing calendar of local events.
The mainstream Israeli media meticulously acknowledges support from Australian political leaders:
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull broke with much of the international community on Friday, attacking last week’s United Nations Security Council Resolution as “one-sided” and “deeply unsettling”.
Turnbull, speaking at a menorah-lighting ceremony at Sydney’s Central Synagogue, said that “Australia stands with Israel. We support Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East,” The Australian Jewish News reported.
Turnbull’s comments come after his foreign minister said Thursday Australia would likely have voted against United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlements.
Summing up the positives in Australian Israeli Relationships
Israel: Adaptive State and Successful Political Model
From its fragile socialist Zionist origins in 1948, the new state of Israel has survived against all odds.
The increased profile of the military in Israeli political life followed major regional conflicts in 1967 and 1973 and the Palestinian Intifadas.
By 2009, Likud was able to form a coalition under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu with the support of right-wing religious and secular parties. This continued in 2013 and 2015.
The unexpected victory of President Trump is music to the ears of Benjamin Netanyahu. Support for Likud was sagging in opinion polls due to the rise of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party. This new centre party which favours consensus-building in domestic and foreign policies and would have thrived under a Hillary Clinton Administration.
US opposition to Iran from sanctions and threats of military action is likely to swing public opinion back to the right.
Reports of Russian influences during the presidential election campaign have distracted from the rapport between Benjamin Netanyahu and President Trump:
Director of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, clandestinely visited the United States to meet with President-elect Donald Trump’s staff and brief them on pressing security matters including the Iranian nuclear deal, the Syrian civil war, terror threats and the Palestinian issue.
The security delegation was organized by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was led by National Security Council head Yaakov Nagel. The Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer was also present during meetings.
The two sides also discussed a regional conference to be hosted by Egypt and other initiatives on the agenda including a UN initiative put forth by the Palestinians and New Zealand.
Additionally, Israeli officials have also reached out to the President-elect to ask him to come out against President Obama and veto a Palestinian bid submitted to the Security Council.
The proposal is expected to be up for a vote before Obama leaves office on January 20. The proposal seeks to label settlements as illegal and implicitly calls on the international community to boycott Israel.
In far-off Australia, the federal LNP is clearly in tune with the trends in global geopolitics in the Middle East after the election of Donald Trump. The federal LNP would welcome the degree of influence with the new US administration which has been accorded to Mossad.
The Israel’s Successful Social Market Economy
With a population approaching 8.75 million in 2017, Israel is the strongest economy in the Middle East Region on the UN Development Index. It is only 30.4 per cent the size of Tasmania in area. However, the Israeli economy is about one fifth the size of Australia in GDP. It has an impressive economic growth rate of over 3.5 per cent in 2016 with a modest public debt level.
Its combination of arid and Mediterranean ecosystems is comparable to dry zones in Southern Australia. Irrigated farming has made Israel largely self-sufficient in most food items and a successful exporter of specialist products.
As in the Netherlands, the diversification of the economy has been extended to an extraordinary degree with a balance between strategic defence industries and high technology manufacturing and service sectors.
Admiration of Israel’s economic success by Australian conservatives ignores the high levels of government internevention in a strongly mercantilist economy.
Mainstream Australian political leaders on both sides of politics clearly identify with the proactive role of Israel in international affairs including close economic ties with Taiwan and some Pacific Island states. The relationship is so close that current and future LNP leaders might cherish the role of Australia as The Israel of the Pacific with an enhanced defence profile in a revamped US Global Alliance.
Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion about progressive pragmatic public policies compatible with contemporary globalization.
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