24 May 2010

Expelling an Israeli diplomat

In expelling an Australian diplomat the Australian Government has responded appropriately to the forging of four Australian passports, which it is satisfied was the work of the Israeli Government. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith rightly states that this is not the action of a friend.

Former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer does not contest the conclusion that the Government has drawn from the evidence presented to it by the Australian Federal Police and the security agencies, but says that expelling an Israeli diplomat is an over-reaction on the grounds that everyone does it (did ASIS do it on his watch I wonder?).

How little he understands the rules of the game. Others may well do this sort of thing – I would never seek to argue that this particular Israeli action is the first time in the history of human endeavour that an intelligence agency has forged another country’s passport. The point is, when they do it, or otherwise break the laws of a foreign country, they do so in the realisation that if they are caught their government will be mightily embarrassed (come to think of it, that doesn’t seem to apply to Israel, they are pretty hard to embarrass) and any operatives who are caught with their hands in the cookie barrel will face the full force of the law. Viewed in that light, the Australian Government’s response was rather benign.

But then Alexander always was rather relaxed and comfortable about the Australian national interest. It was on his watch that an Australian company, the recently privatised AWB Limited, violated Australian domestic law and channelled over $300 million to the Saddam Hussein regime, at a time when we had Australian service men and women in harm’s way leading the multinational naval force in the Gulf, and Alexander was running around the country saying that he was a big fan of sanctions.  Didn’t he know, or didn’t he care?  We will never know, because Prime Minister Rudd is not interested in finding out. 

Ever the insouciant one, Alexander responded to a reporter’s question about the fact that Britain had expelled an Israeli diplomat, how could we be expected to do less, by saying that it was a long time since our hands were tied by what Britain did.  We are independent now, he said (not that that stopped us from going along for the ride in the Anglo-American illegal invasion of Iraq).

How glad I am that Alexander Downer isn’t Foreign Minister any more.  

As for the current Opposition spokesperson, Julie Bishop echoes the line of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that there is no proof of Israeli Government involvement. What would she regard as proof, I wonder.  It seems to me to be beyond reasonable doubt. Even Alexander didn’t seem to be questioning that.

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