Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop intend to reverse the anti-Israel direction in Australia’s voting pattern in UN resolutions that Kevin Rudd oversaw as prime minister and foreign minister, and which Bob Carr continued. This is an immensely important sign of the Coalition government’s values and direction. Canberra will revert to the voting pattern established by John Howard and Alexander Downer: less ambiguous, less apologetic, more straightforward in support of the only democracy in the Middle East. Bishop has not issued any general voting instructions but she has made it clear she intends to restore the Howard voting pattern and to reverse the votes Rudd changed.

Bishop has also made it clear she expects to see every significant Middle East resolution. Nothing will be done by autopilot. Her view is that Australia’s vote on each resolution will be decided on its merits but that she will not support any unbalanced, one-sided or unfair resolutions on Israel. As many UN resolutions on Israel fall into this category, this is an important statement of principle. Bishop has started well as Foreign Minister, making big calls, and the right calls, on Australia’s aid program. She has also performed well at the UN. This is the only benefit that will accrue to Australia as a result of its brief stint on the UN Security Council.

The government’s disposition to oppose the UN’s Israel-bashing is causing some angst in the bureaucracy, specifically in parts of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. When Howard and Downer decided to change to a more explicit position in 2003, they caused similar angst. Downer was rung 10 minutes before a vote, with the relevant ambassador pleading for permission to vote with the consensus. Downer insisted the government’s policy be followed. Similarly, in the early days, Downer would receive submissions from DFAT with three boxes: approve, not approve, discuss. A couple of times he circled “discuss” so he could explain to his bureaucrats why he was rejecting their advice.

Departmental advice amounted to arguing that such an Australian vote would get some of the Arabs off side. Downer’s response was that it didn’t help the Arabs to encourage them in bad policy. The question was whether the resolution was right or wrong in principle. Mostly he just circled “not approve”. DFAT got the idea. It’s important to understand the underlying dynamics. The UN, in its bureaucracy and voting patterns, is grotesquely biased against Israel. Every year 20 or more completely one-sided resolutions are passed against Israel, while typically nothing is said about North Korea or Iran or any of the other paragons of human rights and democracy among UN members.

Many European countries abstain on such resolutions, thinking it’s more trouble than it’s worth to oppose them. Typically, the US, Canada, Israel and a few Pacific countries oppose such resolutions. Under Howard, Australia did too. This was right in principle and also in our interests. It draws us closer to our best friends and makes some contribution to moving the UN in the direction of the real world. The alleged damage to our standing by taking a principled position has never really amounted to anything. After Canberra became more explicit in its support of Israel we did not lose a single election at the UN, trade with the Arab Middle East boomed and more Arab countries opened embassies here.

Nonetheless the bureaucratic dynamic within DFAT tends to be to go along with the international consensus: not to pick an argument unless it directly, and in a sense narrowly, concerns our immediate interests. Given that we abandoned Israel on some key votes in order to curry favour for our UN Security Council bid, it is likely we will now breach undertakings made to Arab countries. Bad luck. The government has changed. The Coalition was clear in opposition that it would take a more sympathetic line to Israel at the UN. If it did not do this it would be abandoning its core values.

Some of the resolutions where Labor changed Australia’s traditional vote have innocuous sounding names but are intensely unfair to Israel and unhelpful to a settlement. Resolution 67/23 on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine unfairly blames Israel for everything while not mentioning any fault by any Palestinian group or authority. Notably it does not call for an end to terrorism, incitement, hatred and so on. In 2006, under Howard, Australia voted against this resolution; last year it abstained. Resolution 67/24 on Jerusalem condemns any Israeli presence in the Old City of Jerusalem at all, a grotesque position. In 2006, Australia abstained; last year, Australia voted in favour.

Various resolutions call for the Geneva Convention to apply to Palestinian territories. These resolutions fail to acknowledge that Israel already voluntarily observes its humanitarian provisions, but also imply Israeli war crimes. In 2006, Australia abstained; last year it voted in favour of these resolutions. Resolution 67/158 seems harmlessly to call for the right of Palestinians to self-determination, but it recognises no similar right for Israelis and is unbalanced on the question of settlements. In 2006 Australia abstained; last year Australia voted in favour. We can expect that if these resolutions come back in their regular form this year, the Abbott government will reverse Labor’s voting record.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports



Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has officially put his weight behind growing efforts to encourage young Israeli Arab Christians to join the Israeli army and fully integrate with Israeli society. The government has tried to initiate such programs in the past, only to create rifts in the Christian community and more hostility toward the Jewish state. But this time, the initiative is coming from the Christians themselves. Recently Netanyahu met with Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth who has been actively recruiting local Christian youth to the cause.

Together with Christian Arab army officers from the area, Naddaf has established a forum aimed at educating Christian youth on why they should brush aside old anti-Israel biases, and view the Jewish state as their home and ally. Netanyahu’s decision will make the Israeli government a direct partner of this Nazareth forum. The move is precisely what Father Naddaf and others had been hoping for. Months ago, under heavy criticism and even threats from Arab members of Israel’s Knesset, Naddaf cautioned that without official government recognition and support, the movement to bring local Christians into the Israeli fold would fail.

Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz declared that a “new spirit” had taken hold in the Israeli Arab Christian community. For years Israel’s Christian community were too cowed by their Muslim neighbours to openly stand with Israel. “It is great to see the Christian population opening up like this, Mofaz continued. Mofaz recently met Regda Jerisi, a young Christian woman who has become outspoken in her intention to voluntarily defend the Jewish state. “I am proud of this position, because I feel that I am a part of the nation, I am Israeli, and with God’s help, after I marry, my children will also join the IDF,” Jerisi said in an interview with an Arabic newspaper.

Taking aim at Israeli Arab Knesset members who attack the Jewish state, Jerisi said, “I do not understand these extremists who receive everything from the state, but can still betray her.” One Arab Knesset member in particular, Hanan Zoabi, has been on a mission to silence Father Nadaf and put an end to his movement to bring Jews and Christians closer together.  Jerisi responded to Zoabi in an open letter that made waves in the Israeli media: The letter read: “My name is Regda Jerisi. I am a Christian who speaks Arabic, but I am not an Arab. I request with all due respect that you do not call us ‘Palestinians.’ We are Israeli Christians, and our hearts and spirits are covered in blue and white [the national colours of Israel].”

In his interview, Mofaz said he was “very impressed by the character of Father Gabriel and the young people with him,” in particular young Regda. “Regda and the rest of these young people represent a new spirit in the Christian population,” said Mofaz. “Regda and the young Christians are making themselves heard on this matter, and we bless them for it.” That recognition and hope of support from Mofaz and other Israeli officials is exactly what Father Nadaf had been pressing for. The priest warned that if Israel itself did not support this “new spirit,” antagonists like Zoabi would ultimately be successful in squashing the movement.

Source: Israel Today



Several news outlets have reported on the way other countries-rivals of Israel-have been depending on the excellent, unbiased care their victims of war have received at the hands of Israelis. The Western Galilee Medical Centre in Nahariya, Israel, has become a sort of “epicentre” for those wounded in Syria’s civil war. One Syrian woman said she had sought medical care for her wounded daughter, but knew she would face retaliation if she returned to her country. “I brought my girl here because she was hit by a sniper’s bullet,” the woman said. “The hospital in my town was destroyed. They have saved her here, but now I am afraid to go back. We will be marked.”

Western Galilee Medical Centre’s clinical director, Masad Barhoum notes, “When they wake up and find that they are in Israel they are anxious and afraid. We don’t ask them any questions; we just do what we can to make them feel comfortable.” The hospital is near to the Lebanese border, and during the 2006 Lebanon War, they reportedly treated around 1,800 civilians and 300 IDF troops. Western Galilee Medical Centre is one of three hospitals in northern Israel that is currently treating a large number of Syrians wounded in their country’s conflict.

Source: The Tower