MERC: The PM who put her job on the line for Israel 19Jan13 January 19, 2013

Middle East Reality Check   -    18 January 2013

Former Labor power broker Graham Richardson writes in today’s Australian about Julia Gillard‘s failure to impose her reflexively pro-Israel stance on her parliamentary party in the context of Palestine’s bid for observer status in the UN last November.

For Richardson, predictably, the real story of the rebellion in Labor ranks (encompassing both cabinet and caucus) essentially boils down to whether or not the Prime Minister is her own worst enemy. It is difficult, of course, to imagine a more searching analysis appearing in Murdoch’s flagship. Still, although the Zionist ties that bind the Prime Minister are neither explored nor critiqued, Richardson’s treatment of this singular event certainly invites discussion of them – hence my accompanying commentary:

In Gillard’s case it is easy to see her flaws and failings and judge her accordingly. There are, however, strengths she possesses and these cannot be disputed. On the negative side, her performance on the vote Australia was to cast at the UN on the admission of the Palestinian Authority with observer status provides a classic example. Her at times simplistic lack of political judgment was on display for all to see. When a prime minister sits around a table with her cabinet colleagues and one by one hears at least 10 of them tell her they do not support her position, then that PM has to know the game is up. Only two Victorians offered her succor and comfort. Senator Stephen Conroy and Bill Shorten, leaders of the Victorian Right, maintained the Israel right or wrong stance all the way. In the cabinet room, they were for all intents and purposes on their own.” (Gillard’s survival technique)

The Israel right or wrong stance? Here’s the really big picture question that Richardson never gets around to asking: how is it that a blind, unquestioning allegiance to an apartheid bully on the other side of the globe has become a central feature of Labor’s (and the opposition Liberal’s) foreign policy position, the current crack in the bilateral consensus notwithstanding? And here’s the small: What is Gillard’s personal stake in this Israel right or wrong stance?

The Victorian Right has always been at the epicentre of pro-Israeli thinking and simply can’t bring themselves to ever say no to Israel. Bob Carr, with whom I have travelled through Israel, and who formed Israeli friendship groups in NSW, used to hold similar views.”

This is beyond strange! Why is it that this faction, in particular, simply can’t bring themselves to ever say no to Israel? While they can cast aside just about every principle Labor ever stood for, they can’t say no Israel – ever? What, as they say, gives here? Please explain, Richo.

Carr has long harboured deep concerns about Israel’s policy of allowing more and more settlements on the West Bank. For our Foreign Minister there is no possibility of peace in the Middle East without a two-state solution and he sees no hope of that if the settlements keep spreading. His views are widely shared within the cabinet room and beyond. Minister after minister concurred with Carr’s summation and still the PM remained unmoved. Curiously enough the cabinet did not appear to challenge her assertion that she was binding them all to support her. Without a cabinet decision to back her up, and there was no chance of that happening, I cannot even imagine where the power she sought to exercise had sprung from. Gareth Evans, who was lobbying ministers furiously at the time, drew this to the attention of anyone who would listen. No one, with the possible exception of Carr, was moved to demur in any shape or form. While the cabinet met, the national Right convened and the Victorians wanted to bind the group behind the government’s decision. Joel Fitzgibbon, the government whip, pointed out that the cabinet was still meeting so no one could say what the government’s position was. Accordingly, the meeting broke up vowing to reconvene the next morning. The next morning, Carr again met Gillard and informed her that he would not vote for her proposition if a vote came in caucus. He was told in no uncertain terms what this would mean for his future.”

So Carr, Australia’s foreign minister, was threatened with the sack – because he was not prepared to kneel, like the Prime Minister, and kiss Israel’s ring? And this isn’t all over the ms media?

She called in Anthony Albanese and asked him to ring around his supporters and shore up her position. Albanese told her it was too late and in any case he was in no mind to do so. Finally, with the caucus meeting under way, Gillard ran up the white flag. Had she not done so, her leadership was over that day. Kevin Rudd had played no rule in this and yet he got closer to regaining the top job than at any time he had involved himself in the previous 12 months. This was a mess of the PM’s own making and it shows she does not control her own destiny. Rudd cannot beat her but she could still defeat herself.”

Gillard was prepared to risk her prime ministership, not over any point of principle, but over her blind devotion to the aforementioned apartheid bully? Is this not a most extraordinary state of affairs? Why aren’t our pundits addressing this issue?

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