Don’t tell us that Australia is an honest broker in the Middle East

This is the not the behaviour of an ally; it’s the actions of a country utterly incapable of viewing the human rights of Arabs as equal to Israelis:

The Israeli ambassador to Australia found Kevin Rudd to be “very pro-Israel” and senior Australian diplomats warned the former prime minister that his condemnation of Iran risked retaliation against Australia’s embassy in Tehran, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.

The secret cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to the Herald, reveal the Israeli ambassador, Yuval Rotem, was pleased with Mr Rudd’s “very supportive” attitude towards Israel’s position in the Middle East peace process and his strong attacks on the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The revelation of Mr Rotem’s description of Mr Rudd last year comes as the Foreign Minister wraps up a visit to Cairo where he expressed concern that ”no real progress” has been made in the US-brokered Middle East peace process.

Following a weekend meeting with the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Abul Gheit, Mr Rudd said Israeli settlements on Palestinian land were ”destroying” the chances of peace. He said he would visit Israel this week and reiterate his position, but added Israel had security fears that needed to be taken into account.

The leaked cables reveal that Israeli diplomats saw Mr Rudd as an important ally.

Mr Rotem told US officials in July 2008 that during his first meeting with Mr Rudd after the 2007 federal election, the newly elected prime minister had described Mr Ahmedinejad as a ”loathsome individual on every level” and that his anti-Semitism ”turns my stomach”.

The US embassy noted that while opposition leader, Mr Rudd had taken a “very strong stance” on Iran, including calling for Mr Ahmadinejad to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court for his calls for the destruction of Israel.

The Israeli ambassador said that the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Michael l’Estrange, and the director-general of the Office of National Assessments, Peter Varghese, had “met several times to convince the PM to think through the consequences of his rhetoric on Iran”.

“The Israeli ambassador believes PM Rudd is very concerned about the Iranian nuclear program and firm in his desire to do whatever possible to signal Australia’s opposition to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions,” the embassy reported. “The Israelis believe Rudd is very firm in his overall support for Israel.”

Asked by the US embassy about whether Mr Rudd’s views on Iran had elicited any response, Mr Rotem said the Iranian government had reacted to the prime minister’s statements by taking ”retaliatory measures” against the Australian embassy in Tehran.

“These measures make it harder for the embassy to conduct its day-to-day business,” Mr Rotem observed.

The Australian government has never publicly acknowledged any Iranian response to Mr Rudd’s public criticism of Iran and its President.

Mr Rotem went on to tell the US embassy that Israel saw Australia “as playing an important role in the ‘global PR battle’ on Iran because PM Rudd is viewed favourably by the ‘European Left’, many of whom are sceptical about taking a tough line towards Tehran”.

The ambassador said Israeli officials would normally have been concerned at the prospect of a Labor government: “However, this was not the case because Rudd had long gone out of his way to stress his strong commitment to Israel and appreciation for its security concerns.”

”Commenting that DFAT officials are very frank in expressing their annoyance with the PM’s micromanaging of foreign policy issues, Rotem laughingly said that ‘while I understand their point of view, how can I complain about having that kind of attention from the PM’.”

The Israeli ambassador’s enthusiasm for the Labor government extended to the deputy prime minister, Julia Gillard, with the US embassy reporting in January last year that Mr Rotem was “very satisfied” with the Australian response to Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.

“Rotem said he had been impressed with acting PM Julia Gillard, who has taken the lead in co-ordinating the [Australian government] public and private response to the Gaza fighting ”¦ Rotem said that Gillard and [national security adviser Duncan] Lewis have been very understanding of Israel’s military action, while stressing the need to minimise civilian casualties and address humanitarian concerns.”

Mr Rotem said Ms Gillard’s public statements surprised many Israeli embassy contacts as being “far more supportive than they had expected”.

Mr Rotem told his US counterparts that several senior Labor Party contacts had told him privately that Mr Rudd had been “a bit jealous of the attention garnered by Gillard” and that this led him to speak to the Gaza issue later in January 2009.

The ambassador added that he would be “playing to Rudd’s vanity” to encourage him to pay an early visit to Israel and continue to speak out in support of a hard line against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

And fears that the Zionist state isn’t a rational player:

Australian intelligence agencies fear that Israel might launch military strikes against Iran and that Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities could draw the US and Australia into a potential nuclear war in the Middle East.

Australia’s top intelligence agency has also privately undercut the hardline stance towards Tehran of the United States, Israeli and Australian governments, saying that Iran’s nuclear program is intended to deter attack and that it is a mistake to regard Iran as a ”rogue state”.

The warnings about the dangers of nuclear conflict in the Middle East are given in a secret US embassy cable obtained by WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to the Herald. They reflect views obtained by US intelligence liaison officers in Canberra from across the range of Australian intelligence agencies.

“The AIC’s [Australian intelligence community’s] leading concerns with respect to Iran’s nuclear ambitions centre on understanding the time frame of a possible weapons capability, and working with the United States to prevent Israel from independently launching unco-ordinated military strikes against Iran,” the US embassy in Canberra reported to Washington in March last year.

“They are immediately concerned that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities would lead to a conventional war – or even nuclear exchange – in the Middle East involving the United States that would draw Australia into a conflict.”

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

Site by Common