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Australia-Israeli Relationships (Part 2): Some Barriers to a Progressive Accord

By Denis Bright

Both countries now face a political impasse to the development of progressive policies under prevailing political regimes.

In the latest Australian Newspoll, the federal LNP is reduced to a primary vote of 35 per cent with a diverse bloc of 19 per cent from minority right wing parties. The federal LNP’s reliance on preferences from the religious and secular right in marginal seats and in the senate is likely to be a game-changing in Australian politics.

The ruling Lukid Party of “Bibi” Netanyahu in Israel had a primary vote of just 23.4 per cent at the last legislative election in 2015. It is even more controlled by right-wing religious and secular parties.

The Likud Government is also currently being rocked by the involvement of Australian billionaire James Packer in a circle of influence of wealthy backers of the Israeli Prime Minister.

With the arrival of President Trump, it is much easier for Likud to crank up its xenophobic approaches to regional problems to regain its old support base:

Headlines out of Washington D.C. over the weekend indicated that newly inaugurated U.S. President Donald Trump was considering his foreign policy stance towards Israel, which could entail relocating the U.S. embassy in the country from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

It is also understood that Trump spoke on the telephone to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend. News reports say that the president reiterated his “unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security” and invited Netanyahu to visit Washington D.C. in early February.

Hugh Lovatt, Israel/Palestine project coordinator at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told CNBC via telephone that Trump’s potential to move the U.S. embassy was “altogether a worrying phenomenon,” as it signified a “broader U.S. drive which risks severely undermining not just stability (in the region) but also the two state solution.”

Such xenophobia overlooks the long-standing antagonism between displaced Arabs in Palestine and the Israel.

Land under the control of Palestinian Arabs has been decimated since the days of Britain’s Palestine Mandate in 1947 (The Economist 14 May 2010).

Despite all the concerns about Iran’s potential nuclear weapons, Israel is the only local player in the Middle East Region with access to nuclear weapons.

Recent tweets from the White House also support the expansion of Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem.

Provocatively, President Trump also wants the US Embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Federal LNP’s Support for the Netanyahu Government

The Netanyahu Government is well supported by the federal LNP in Canberra. This drags Australia into support for xenophobic policy changes initiated by a faltering Likud Government:

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has signalled that Australia likely would have broken with the US and New Zealand by ­opposing a UN Security Council resolution criticising Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Her revelation came as former foreign minister Bob Carr declared Donald Trump’s election could empower Israel to seize the West Bank, comments that will stir a growing debate within Labor about its ­position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Australia’s affinity with Israel as a model democracy extends to close business, cultural and defence ties.

Israeli Heron drones first entered RAAF service in Afghanistan in December 2009 on lease from Israel Aerospace Industries, a wholly government owned business venture.

Israel has moved on to consolidate its leadership in military drone technology:

A hint of this can be found in the Defense Minister’s site, boasting that Israel is a superpower in the drone industry.

“In recent years the UAV industry has grown rapidly, following the increased number of missions and their complex character – reconnaissance, surveillance, assisting infantry forces, attack, defense, etc.,” the site says.

It also says that drones “are capable of staying a long time in the air, carrying hundreds of kilograms and have an extended range.”

The American administration, which frequently uses UAVs to attack targets throughout the world, has been blasted for using them as means of extrajudicial execution.

At an editorial level, The Australian talks up the political, commercial and strategic value of relationships with Israel:

Australia should ­upgrade military and diplomatic relations with ­Israel to tap into its expertise in counter-terrorism and hi-tech weapons systems, according to a major ­report to be released today.

Australia could benefit from ­Israel’s expertise in unmanned aerial systems, ship-borne missile defence, cyber-warfare, armoured vehicle protection, smart sensors and a range of other capabilities.

Both nations are intimate US allies and operate a great deal of common US defence equipment, including soon the F-35A version of the Joint Strike Fighter.

The report, The Wattle and The Olive by Anthon­y Bergin of the Australian Strat­egic Policy Institute and Efrai­m Inbar from Israel’s Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies, suggests Australia and Israel eventually would have enough common strategic and political interests to sustain a two-plus-two dialogue of foreign and defence ministers.

It also suggests Canberra could help Israel ­enhance the diplomatic progress it already has made in Asia. Israel has a longstanding ­defence relationship with Singapore, and has built something similar with India. It has a big and growing trade relationship with China, including high-level military exchang­es, and a long relationship with Japan.

The report said although Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, is not as hostile to Israel as many Muslim nations, Jakarta does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel.

Israeli Weapons of Mass Destruction

This positive glow towards Israel overlooks the Netanyahu Government’s commitment to a nuclear weapons programme in breach of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Agreement of 1970. India, Pakistan, North Korea and South Sudan are other current states outside the agreement.

In relation to chemical weapons, Egypt, North Korea and South Soudan are the aberrant states but Israel has not ratified its agreement which became operational in 1997. Israel is also a non-signatory of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Conventions (BTWC) of 1972.

A recent US Congressional Research Service Report makes the following assessment of Israeli’s nuclear weapons programmes:

In addition to its highly developed conventional equipment and capabilities, including a number of missile defense platforms, Israel is widely presumed to have an unacknowledged nuclear weapons arsenal that might be deployable via aircraft, submarine, and ground-based missiles. Additionally, Israel reportedly has sophisticated cyber defense and warfare capabilities. Its overall annual defense budget is approximately $13.8 billion, constituting about 4.7% of Israel’s total gross domestic product (GDP).

Congressional Research Service Online Israel: Background and U.S. Relations 28 October 2016

This defence programme in Israel is supported by significant financial U.S. Assistance and goodwill from NATO countries in supplying new strategic items.

Israel’s fifth new generation submarine

After delivery of the submarines from Germany, they were fitted with nuclear missiles. These missiles have an intermediate range according to the assessment of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 2016.

Operating from either Mediterranean or the Indian Ocean, Israel’s nuclear armed submarine fleet is supported by ground to air and air-borne missiles.

Former US secretary of state and four-star general Colin Powell alleged that Israel possesses some 200 nuclear weapons, in an email apparently leaked by Russian hackers this week.

Discussing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 2015 speech to Congress about the dangers posed by the Iranian nuclear deal, in an email he sent to

US Democratic party donor Jeffrey Leeds, Powell wrote that he doubted the Iranian regime would use an atomic bomb even if it could get one, since “the boys in Tehran know Israel has 200, all targeted on Tehran, and we have thousands”. (The Times of Israel Online 15 September 2016 showing Israeli B61 nuclear bombs at the ready).

The Israeli Business Lobby and Its Links to Centre-Right Politics

More significant than Israel’s nuclear strike force is the Netanyahu Government’s sponsorship of its business sector internationally with active support from its intelligence gathering networks. The option of becoming the Israel of the Asia-Pacific Region is highly appealing to the pro-republican segments of the federal LNP:

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.

Writing for AlterNet, Robert Jensen in The Occupation of the American Mind, explains how strategies are applied to place a pro-Israeli spin on the 24 hour news cycle. Simplistic and repetitive phrases with a high emotional content all promote the big picture of Israel as the Middle East’s only true democracy that is taking the difficult choices to ensure its survival. Full versions of this documentary are available on YouTube.

Focusing on the nuclear threat from Iran is at the expense of critical analysis of Israel’s own WMD programmes in defiance of UN Conventions or the supportive roles of Saudi Arabia and other western countries in military actions against Yemen and Syria.

On a business front, the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC) uses its Gold Membership to foster networking at corporate executive level in technology, retail, people & culture, property & infrastructure, banking & finance, innovation and sustainability. Its panel/ballroom lunches attract hundreds of participants.

Cultural connections with Israel are not required. The AICC attracts the nation’s highest corporate giants.

One of the many corporate sponsors of the AICC is Israel’s Elbit Systems with its aeronautics, security and defence commitments. Elbit Systems is earning valuable defence contracts in Australia and other countries in the US Global Alliance countries.

Like all slick advertising, Elbit Systems talks up the most benign outcomes from its defence products as shown by the display of its military hardware at a Tasmanian fair in 2015.

The Electronic Intifada from Palestine notes the dire consequences of Elbit products:

Like most Israeli military contractors, Elbit benefits from Israel’s decades-long brutal occupation of Palestine, which serves as a laboratory for Israel’s ballooning “homeland security” industry to test and perfect methods of domination and control, with Palestinians as their involuntary lab rats.

Israel’s suppression technology is then exported to regimes that are similarly invested in subjugating the poor and marginalized, like the United States, where Elbit was recently granted a lucrative $145 million contract to provide surveillance technology at the Arizona-Mexico border.

This is the same Elbit surveillance technology used to construct and maintain Israel’s apartheid wall in the occupied West Bank, which the International Court of Justice has deemed illegal under international law.

Foreshadowing Australia’s Republican Future with the Federal LNP

In the best traditions of The Occupation of the American Mind, the Prime Minister of Australia offered an outstanding presentation to the National Press Club on 1 February 2017. This event was indeed sponsored by Westpac Australia, a key AICC sponsor for NSW.

Despite high levels of underemployment, recently announced job losses in car assembly, falling real wages and extraordinary housing and rental prices, Malcolm Turnbull continued with his commitment to visionary political spin through his address:

Last week, we celebrated Australia Day and around the country 16,000 people from 150 nations chose to become one of us.

Like us holders of the highest office in a democracy – citizen.

Partners in the most successful multicultural society in the world. A beacon of harmony in the midst of diversity, founded on a deep tradition of mutual respect in a world of rising intolerance.

Enterprising, optimistic and resilient. Compassionate and egalitarian.

In the great race of life, there is no better place to get ahead, realise your dream than here. And nowhere, if you stumble and fall behind, you are more likely to get a hand up (The Prime Minister of Australia Online 2 February 2017 and http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2017/s4612801.htm).

The fate of the refugee agreement negotiated in the last days of the Obama Administration makes it difficult for Malcolm Turnbull to speak out on the excesses of President Trump.

The government of Benjamin Netanyahu is right in there with Donald Trump as the most imperial of US republican leaders in recent times.

There are costs if Australian leaders decide to choose this Israeli path to influence global events by becoming The Israel of the Pacific in international relations.

Hopefully, the Labor Movement will resist gunboat diplomacy against China and opportunist attempts at regime change in China with the support of Taiwan and President Trump.

Both sides of global politics can learn from The Occupation of the American Mind.

The prospects for challengers to both Malcolm Turnbull and “Bibi” Netanyahu are on the ascendency in 2017 as both are adept at the art of enthusiastic bluster rather than convincing leadership. Both are clinging tenaciously to President Trump for their survival.

Perhaps internal intelligence in the US is preparing the world for regime change in Australia as well as China:

Last week the White House was telling the world about “alternative facts”. Now it seems they might be steering us into believing in an alternative prime minister.

Yesterday White House press secretary Sean Spicer was mocked for mispronouncing Malcolm Turnbull’s name as “Trumble”.

But at a briefing overnight Spicer repeated the error, which may well mean that the Trump Administration is trying to rebrand the prime minister.

Spicer has shown that he is somewhat iffy on Turnbull’s name, but moments before repeating his blunder he may well have mixed up the prime minister’s identity.

There is no identity confusion with high profile visitors from Israel:

President-elect Donald Trump’s team met with the head of Israel’s intelligence service, according to a report in Ynetnews.

Yossi Cohen, the head of Mossad, secretly traveled to the United States for the meeting to discuss security issues ranging from the Iran nuclear agreement to the civil war in Syria, the news outlet reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly organized the visit and Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, was also part of the meetings.

In this new world of insiders and outsiders in the Trump Era, Australian leaders should keep their distance from too much affinity with both the US Global Alliance and the Netanyahu Government. Being dragged into future military conflicts in the Middle East and Asia are the lame-duck prizes for too much gullible loyalty.

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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13 comments

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  1. Shona

    A good saga of deterioration in Israel from far right agendas under Likud .

  2. paulwalter

    Agree, it was a moderately languaged article dealing with shabby reactionist realpolotik.

    The derangement all round is a worry, the paranoia and siege mentalism, fueled by greed and appetite for the illusory consolations of power; ego, fear and non-reflexive subjectivism.

  3. wam

    everyone has religious right problems???
    Perhaps robert-louis was describing god when he wrote about the strange case???

  4. Leila Smith

    Interesting article Denis, Palestine certainly has a right to a State & peace for its people just as Israel is.
    Israel is supposedly acting in the name of religion but that goes out the window in their actions

  5. Rubio@Coast

    Israel rides dangerous waves and seems to like night surfing near slippery rocky headlands! Not recommended as foreign policy options for Aussies even when Big Brother Donald is out there on night patrol to rescue us all.

  6. Jarrad Day

    [video src="https://is2.4chan.org/wsg/1486532057740.webm" /]

    Israel are the most dangerous nation on Earth ..
    Be very concerned

  7. Pat

    There are no prizes for being the Israel of the Pacific – only international tension & wars

  8. Paul

    Weapons of mass destruction cannot be the solution to the Israeli dream.

  9. Jasper

    Israel’s nuclear arms are bringing us closer to Midnight now that the US President has torn up the agreement with Iran.

  10. Boris

    The State of Palestine has diminished like that best Mediterranean waves but they are still worth backing.

  11. More Even-Handed

    Australia should not be too loyal to this emergent Trump-Netanyahu Axis. Kim Beazley does not represnet contemportary Aussie perspectives and speaks from another era. Time for Australia to look to Asia for its economic and strategic partnerships.

  12. Harquebus

    Denis Bright’s conclusion is spot on.

    “Australian leaders should keep their distance from too much affinity with both the US Global Alliance and the Netanyahu Government.”

    Cheers.

  13. Come to the Demo

    A topical article for the forthcoming visit of Benjamin Netanyahu to Australia. Can someone upload the protest venue sites? Thanks Denis for this timely article.

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