Diplomacy: The art and business of lying for one's country -Ambrose Bierce
After one year in office, the Israeli ambassador, Yuval Rotem, reflects in an interview with The Australian Jewish News on his 'achievements':-
"[W]hen [the change of government] took place I think we were pretty ready in terms of the connection, in terms of personal ties, in terms of being able to introduce our input. This eventually cultivated the ground for the most important accomplishment of this embassy to date, which was to convince the political infrastructure to move the motion on a bipartisan basis on March 12, 2008, celebrating Israel's 60th anniversary.* The fact is we were the only embassy throughout the world to do so, the only parliament in the world that made this kind of political act, and provided this kind of support in a very public, very open, very sympathetic way... In addition, the Rudd Government approved the visit of (former) Governor-General [Major General Michael Jeffery] to Israel.** It was the first state visit to Israel, which included the inauguration of the park in Be'er Sheva [The Park of the Australian Soldier]. It's an amazing indication about this relationship, but also shows how the Governor-General's visit was important in enhancing this relationship one step further... There has been less progress than I expected [on a free-trade agreement]. It's still on the table. I know from the Australian point of view, there is a desire to see a comprehensive deal..."
[*See my March 2008 posts The Israeli Occupation of Federal Parliament]
[**See my posts Anzac Day Special: Diggers Die for Israel (24/4/08) & Zionist Myth In-formation (1/5/08)]
When asked what he thought of the Australian press, he said: "Definitely better than the British, but not yet like The Wall Street Journal. One of the top 3 elements in our agenda has been to go to all those briefing rooms, and we go on an almost monthly basis to all the major papers and have a serious briefing. Some of them are not easy encounters; some even include strong, heated debate. But I think we don't have the luxury of just ignoring them - we have to try to relay to them our agenda. I am very happy in some areas - some correspondents have been changed and I think working with the editors, together with a better job in Jerusalem, there has been some progress on the reporting and editorial line on Israel and the Middle East." (One year down... the ambassador reflects, 26/9/08)
We have in the above interview the ambassador's admission that he not only has regular sessions with editors, in which he browbeats them over their papers' Middle East coverage, but also a hint that he just might have had a hand in the termination of a correspondent's services. The reference to a change of "correspondents" could only be a reference to the departure of the Sydney Morning Herald's Ed O'Loughlin in May last year. For the first intimation of same, see my 8/1/08 post Ed v Abraham (where the AJN reveals that O'Loughlin's designated successor, Jason Koutsoukis, was "briefed" by the Israeli ambassador). And for some idea of the forces ranged against O'Loughlin, see my 24/2/08 post Danby's Drubbing in the AJN.
One aspect of O'Loughlin's departure came under the scrutiny of ABC TV's Media Watch program on 19/5/08. MW noted that a full page "farewell" piece by O'Loughlin, Wars between worlds, filed for both The Age and the SMH, appeared only in The Age of 10/5/08 (Its introduction read as follows: "As Ed O'Loughlin's 5 years as Middle East correspondent comes to an end, he reflects on his time covering one of the world's most intractable conflicts."). MW asked O'Loughlin, then in Dublin, if he was surprised at the failure of the piece to appear in the Herald: "Yes, I was very surprised... It was pulled at the last minute, I understand, by the editor Alan Oakley. It's the first time in five and a half years that I've had a piece spiked... There has been an intensive lobbying effort to skew the Herald and The Age to a pro-Israel position and I've had nothing but support until now. That's why I'm surprised that they pulled my final piece... I was told informally that there were concerns about how the pro-Israel lobby would react to it." (Saying goodbye is hard to do)