Former Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr has suggested Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s dogged support of Israel was due to the "subcontracting" of Australian foreign policy to Jewish donors, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.
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In his upcoming book "Diary of a Foreign Minister," Carr claims the "extreme right-wing" pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne wielded "extraordinary influence" on Gillard. The book includes private text messages between the two – published without Gillard's consent – which detail the pair's disagreement on Australia's support (or lack thereof) for the November 2012 United Nations vote concerning Palestinian observer status.
In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to promote his new book, Carr claimed the pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne wielded "extraordinary influence" on Gillard and her office, negatively interfering with Australian foreign policy.
"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."
Mark Leibler, national chairman of the Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, passionately rejected Carr's portrayal of the Jewish lobby's disproportionate influence.
"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," Liebler told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "Why can't they have a difference of opinion on a matter related to Israeli policy?"
"How does the Jewish lobby control the prime minister," Liebler asked. "Through donations to the ALP and sending people to Israel. I mean, give me a break. Would anyone seriously accept that? Julia Gillard is an independent-thinking woman. She can come to her own conclusions without being influenced by the Jewish lobby."
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Carr describes Yuval Rotem, Israel's former ambassador to Australia, as "the cunning Yuval" and Avigdor Lieberman as "gloomy" and "taciturn" in his book. He also dubs the pro-Israel caucus within Australia's Labor party, including notable Jewish MPs Mark Dreyfus and Michael Danby, as the "falafel faction."
Like Leibler, Danby described Carr's accusations as "laughable," adding that "in the current climate, it's OK to be a bigot."
Carr responded harshly to Danby's accusations, calling the comments "extraordinary."
"For years, I was president of Labor Friends of Israel. I wrote a book, 'My Reading Life,' in which I recommend the book of an Auschwitz survivor as the most important book of the last 100 years," Carr told ABC radio.
"My only point about Israel was that settlement activity ought to stop and that the Palestinian status, the increased status in the General Assembly, ought to be not blocked by Australia. So that's a position that the foreign minister of every European country would endorse and indeed doesn't fall too much short of the foreign policy position of [U.S. Secretary of State] John Kerry."