Daily Israel Report

Op-Ed: Palestine and Australia: Rudd and Labor Sank in Silence

A post mortem on Sept. 7's Australian elections, where Tony Abbott led the LIberal-National party to win a strong majority of 30 seats in the country's 150 member parliament, ending two terms of Labor Party rule. Abbott is strongly pro-Israel.
Published: Monday, September 09, 2013 7:54 AM


Australia's Prime Minister - Kevin Rudd, and its Foreign Minister - Senator Bob Carr - ran a campaign hell bent on consigning the Labor Party to Opposition and the political wilderness in last week's elections. And that is exactly what they did.

This view was confirmed by Dan Goldberg in an article on August 27 titled "Jewish support swinging towards Liberal Party in Australian election"

"The latest polls predict the Liberal Party will win the September 7 election by 53 percent to Labor's 47 percent. Voting is mandatory and Orthodox Jews have started to pre-poll because all Australian elections are held on Saturdays."

Election results spelled the end of a bitter  battle between Rudd's Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Jewish leaders, who were infuriated in January when he joined British Foreign Secretary William Hague in stating that all Israeli "settlements" are "illegal under international law."

Carr, actually a founder of the New South Wales Parliamentary Friends of Israel group in the 1970s, reignited Jewish angst last month in a speech outside Australia's largest mosque. "All settlements on Palestinian land are illegal under international law and should cease," he said. "That is the position of Kevin Rudd, the position of the federal Labor government, and we don't make apologies for it."

As the inevitable post mortems are written after the elections - Carr's Lakemba Mosque Declaration tying Rudd and the Labor Party to Carr's own previously expressed viewpoint will be seen as emblematic of the failure of Rudd and the Labor Party, who were not considered anti-Israel, to be honest and upfront with the Australian voters on a range of issues during the elections.

The Lakemba Mosque Declaration came as a complete surprise to the Executive Council  of Australian Jewry, the Australia Israel Jewish Affairs Council and the Zionist Federation of Australia - who were quick to voice their disapproval of what was in effect anti-Jewish-policy made on the run on the steps of the Mosque - not by the Prime Minister - but by his Foreign Minister.

Attempts to have Rudd confirm or deny that the views attributed to him and the Labor Party by Carr were in fact their views - were studiously ignored and remained unanswered by Rudd.

Instead Carr's spokesman weighed in with the following mealy-mouthed statement:

"Words are very important and it’s important they are not misrepresented. Yes, we have expressed “concern”, we have expressed “grave concern” and we have expressed “disappointment” in relation to the settlements.This does not amount to a condemnation of Israel or anything like it."

Who the "we" is and when those words were used was left up in the air.

What was clearly said at the Mosque were the words "illegal in international law", "cease", " the position of Kevin Rudd ", the position of the Labor Federal Government" " and "we don't make apologies"

Labor Federal MP for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby however was more forthright when telling JWire about Carr's comments on Israeli settlements:

"Bob Carr’s emphasis on Israeli settlements is ill timed, given the peace negotiations that are currently taking place in Washington. These talks commenced, and are supported by Australia, on the basis that they are undertaken without preconditions.

"One of the issues, and it is only one, of the issues being negotiated in Washington is settlements and land swaps. Obviously therefore Australia should not pre-empt negotiations freely entered into by the parties involved."

Rudd and Carr failed to respond to allegations that the Lakemba Mosque Declaration was made to attract Moslem voters back to the Labor Party after another disastrous piece of policy on the run - denying future Moslem asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat any right to resettlement in Australia.

Moslem votes were considered to be crucial to Labor retaining a number of narrowly held marginal seats - especially in western Sydney and in Victoria - but the Herald Sun reported on 23 August - confirmed again right before the elections:

"Labor is facing a wipeout in must-win seats along the eastern seaboard as the federal election campaign enters its final fortnight.

"An exclusive Galaxy Poll for the Herald Sun reveals the marginal Victorian seats of Corangamite and La Trobe are set to fall to the Coalition on September 7.

"Five critical Labor-held seats in western Sydney are also likely to tumble, including heartland seats such as Gough Whitlam's former electorate of Werriwa."

Rudd's continuing refusal to confirm in a one sentence press release that the Lakemba Mosque declaration is Labor Party policy - a declaration that cost him Jewish votes - apparently convinced Moslem voters that Carr's declaration was only hot air and political grandstanding.

Trying to play the ethnic card had the effect of upsetting both Jewish and Moslem voters - as well as other ethnic groups - during this election campaign.

Facing defeat in his own electorate - a desperate Rudd could might have considered breaking his silence to assure Moslem voters that it is his view - and indeed Labor party policy - that Jews have no right to live in the "West Bank"
.
It would have been too little and too late - and would anyone believe him - after refusing for three weeks to clear up the confusion created by his own Foreign Minister.
Trusting your politicians to say what they mean and mean what they say still ranks very highly in securing many peoples' votes on Election Day.

Rudd and Carr's sordid saga of deception and confusion in this and many other issues succeeded in turning voters away in droves.