Australia’s former foreign minister, Bob Carr, hit out on Wednesday at what he called the "pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne", Australia’s ABC News reported.
Carr claimed that this alleged “pro-Israel lobby” wielded "extraordinary influence" on Australia's policy during his time in former Prime Minister Julia Gillard's cabinet.
Carr told ABC that "extreme right-wing" pro-Israel lobbyists had an "unhealthy" influence on Australia's policy towards Israel and the Palestinian Authority-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria.
Carr details his time as foreign minister, and his criticism of the pro-Israel lobby, in his new book, “Diary of a Foreign Minister.”
"I found it very frustrating that we couldn't issue, for example, a routine expression of concern about the spread of Israeli settlements on the West Bank - great blocks of housing for Israeli citizens going up on land that everyone regards as part of the future Palestinian state if there is to be a two-state solution," he told the Australian network.
"The important point about a diary of a foreign minister is you shine light on areas of government that are otherwise in darkness, and the influence of lobby groups is one of those areas,” he added.
"What I've done is to spell out how the extremely conservative instincts of the pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne was exercised through the then-prime minister's office," charged Carr.
Carr and Gillard came to political blows over her planned support for Israel during a crucial vote in the United Nations, when the PA applied for - and received - the status of a non-member observer state in the UN.
"I had to resist it, and my book tells the story of that resistance, coming to a climax when there was a dispute on the floor of caucus about my recommendation that we don't block the Palestinian bid for increased non-state status at the United Nations," Carr told ABC.
Australia's Labor Caucus ultimately forced Gillard to a compromise on her vote over the PA’s bid for statehood, and Gillard said she would have to abstain instead of voting against the bid.
The national chairman of the Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, Mark Leibler, rejected Carr's claims as "a figment of his imagination."
"Just unpick for a moment what he's saying. He's talking about the Jewish lobby, he's talking about a difference of opinion between him and the prime minister," Leibler told ABC.
"Why can't they have a difference of opinion on a matter related to Israeli policy? No, if there's a difference of opinion ... the prime minister has to be wrong because she's controlled by the Jewish lobby,” he added.
"How does the Jewish lobby control the prime minister? Through donations to the ALP and sending people to Israel. I mean, give me a break. Would anyone seriously accept that?"
Leibler added that he was able to raise concerns with Gillard in the same way he raised them with Kevin Rudd, John Howard, Paul Keating, Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser.
"Julia Gillard is an independent-thinking woman. She can come to her own conclusions without being influenced by the Jewish lobby," he stated, adding that the council's lobbying of governments is no different to other community organizations.
"When we've got an issue which is a serious one, which needs to be raised, we haven't had a problem in getting access to either ALP or Liberal prime ministers or foreign ministers and so it should be," Leibler told ABC.
"Any representative of a community organization, if they've got something serious to say, they'll get the access."