The Netanyahu government's finger (over Jerusalem, and whatever else takes its fancy) and the antics of Israel's photogenic death squads have ensured that what passes for the Pariah State's reputation has lately been taking more and more hits. It's therefore damage-control time and our Likudniks in the federal opposition and the Murdoch press have been summoned to do their bit. Praise Herzl and pass the talking points:
"Tony Abbott has called on the Rudd government not to expel an Israeli diplomat over allegations the Israeli secret service, Mossad, used forged Australian passports in the assassination of a Hamas terrorist in Dubai... 'We can never forget that Israel is a country under existential threat in a way Australians find difficult to understand', Mr Abbott told The Weekend Australian. It's also the only pluralist democracy in the Middle East. We have to understand that Israel sometimes has to do something which mercifully other countries are spared the necessity of doing. It strikes me that it would be an overreaction to expel an Israeli diplomat'." (Abbott calls for restraint on Israel, Greg Sheridan, The Australian, 27/3/10)
There but for the grace of God go we, eh Tony?
"Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop told The WA: 'It would be naive in the extreme to believe a foreign power never used a forged passport. The Australian government would have to be very careful to ensure that Australian agencies never used false passports'. She said expelling an Israeli diplomat would be an 'extreme step' and that she would 'not want to see Kevin Rudd politicise this case in an election year'."
Everybody's doin' it, doin' it, doin' it, everybody's doin' it - even us, eh Jules? Wouldn't want to be hypocrites now. Confirms Sheridan, "Reliable sources have also told The WA that Australian intelligence agencies used forged passports in their clandestine work." So there!
Seriously though, must I remind the Abbott and the Bishop that John Howard expelled Israeli 'diplomat' Amir Lati in December 2004 "after ASIO concerns about his pattern of dating high-profile public servants with access to classified information" (Israeli 'victim of ASIO spy row', John Kerin, The Australian, 10/3/05)? Funny, I don't remember any special pleading by the Abbott and the Bishop at the time.
And on the other side of the fence? "Well-informed sources told The WA that the Rudd government was having a vigorous internal debate about what action, if any, to take. Some members of the government believe that it has already done enough to vent its anger with the Israelis... Others... prefer aligning more with the Gordon Brown strategy and with Mr Obama's evident anger toward Israel."
As "the most influential foreign affairs analyst in Australia" (or so says The Australian's website), Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan's views will no doubt figure prominently in the government's vigorous internal debate over whether to give Amir Lati's successor his marching orders. That being the case, I won't be holding my breath, because, as the sage says, "The Americans and Brits don't always get things right. There are times when Canberra should definitely not follow their lead."
You see, Sheridan reckons that Obama's in "full jihad mode against Israel," is responsible for "some of the most dangerous rhetoric ever to come out of a US administration," and is unleashing "the spectre of wild and hysterical anti-Israel sentiment... with all manner of destructive consequences." (Obama's anti-Israeli hysteria dangerous and destructive, 27/3/10)
And we can't have our Prime Minister tailing a mad jihadi like Obama now, can we?