Kevin Rudd, Australia’s former prime minister who expelled a Mossad agent from Canberra in 2010, has been re-elected to help save Australia’s government from electoral oblivion.
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In a remarkable day in Canberra, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, a loyal supporter of Israel during her three years in office, called a leadership spill in the Labour Party amid plunging polls and mounting evidence that Rudd was more popular.
Parliament members on Wednesday night voted for Rudd by 57-45. The federal election is scheduled for September 14 – controversially coinciding with Yom Kippur.
Junior cabinet minister Michael Danby, one of two the Jews in government, told JTA just as he was arriving to the vote that he would back Gillard.
While many government MPs face defeat at the federal election, Danby’s seat, heavily backed by Jews, would require a swing of almost eight percent.
His Jewish parliamentary colleague, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, has a margin of about ten percent, and is also favored to keep his seat.
Asked whether Israel had lost a loyal friend in Gillard, Danny Lamm, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, told JTA, “She was outstanding in her support of Israel, most notably during the operation in Gaza [in 2009] when she strongly asserted Israel's rights to defend itself, when she stood by Israel with the first UNGA vote on the Palestinians and her attempts (ultimately unsuccessful) to retain that position last year.
While Gillard had planned on opposing the Palestinian bid for non-member observer state status at the United Nations in November 2012, she was ultimately forced by her own cabinet ministers to order an Australian abstention instead.
“We have enjoyed a professional and respectful relationship with PM Rudd during his earlier terms as PM and look forward to maintaining that going forward,” said Lamm, by email from Israel.
Rudd, who served as prime minister from 2007 to 2010 before being deposed in a coup to install Gillard, told Jewish leaders during the 2007 election campaign that Israel was “in my DNA.”
He successfully led Australia’s bid for a UN Security Council seat but was accused of compromising support for Israel in a bid to woo Arab votes.
Rudd was “not impressed” as prime minister when it became clear that Australian passports were compromised in the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January 2010.
In response, he expelled Israel's Mossad agent from the embassy in the capital.
Bilateral relations were also strained earlier this year following revelations that Melbourne-born Ben Zygier was "Prisoner X,” the secret inmate who committed suicide in prison in 2010 after reportedly spilling secrets to Hezbollah.