29 March 2010

Tony Abbott on action against Israel

Under the headline Tony Abbott calls for restraint on Israel, the 27-28 March edition of The Weekend Australian reports that Opposition leader Tony Abbott has called on the Rudd government to ignore the precedent set by the British Government, and refrain from expelling an Israeli diplomat over allegations that the Israeli secret service, Mossad, used forged Australian passports in the Dubai assassination of a Hamas operative.

To quote from the article:

While stressing that he did not condone the misuse of Australian passports, and while it is not yet known whether Israel was involved in the assassination, Mr Abbott pleaded for understanding for the Jewish state.

"We can never forget that Israel is a country under existential threat in a way Australians find difficult to understand," Mr Abbott told The Weekend Australian. "It's also the only pluralist democracy in the Middle East”.

"We have to understand that Israel sometimes has to do something which mercifully other countries are spared the necessity of doing. It strikes me that it would be an overreaction to expel an Israeli diplomat."

Some comments:

-  The “existential threat” argument is paraded constantly, but it is palpable nonsense. Israel has a substantial nuclear strike force, widely reported to be deliverable by aircraft, ballistic missiles, and submarine-launched cruise missiles, and it has an absolute security guarantee from the United States.

-  A much better case could be made that Israel’s neighbours in the Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza  face an existential threat; they live under constant threat of Israeli attack, and there is no sign that the Palestinians have any future other than continuing military occupation, accompanied by a steady attrition of their natural resources and their cultural assets. Israel occupies Syrian territory in the Golan Heights, and Syria was attacked by Israeli commandos and aircraft in September 2007.  Iran is constantly threatened with a pre-emptive Israeli strike.   

-  Mr Abbott might think that it is not yet known whether Israel was involved in the assassination, but the UK Government seems certain enough to take the step of expelling an Israeli diplomat.  Given the close collaboration between Australian and British police and intelligence agencies, I think we can be reasonably confident that the Australian Government knows a great deal of what the UK Government knows, and why the UK Government is so confident that the assassination and the associated forging of passports were the work of Israel.  I don’t know what sort of smoking gun would satisfy Mr Abbott.

-  When he argues that Australians might find it difficult to understand Israel’s situation, and that we need to understand that Israel sometimes has to do something that others are spared the necessity of doing, he might like to reflect that people whose land has been stolen and who live under brutal military occupation are also in a situation which many Australians find hard to imagine, and they too might sometimes feel that they have to do things that we are spared the necessity of doing.  There is no sign from Mr Abbott of any such empathy for the Palestinian situation.

No comments: