Does Australia really need Israel? The Australian's defence correspondent, Mark Dodd, initially suggests that we do:
"Despite tough talk on Monday that Israel's actions were not those of a friend, Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith knows all too well that neither country can afford to have sour diplomatic relations." (No blow to intelligence flow, 26/5/10)
Dodd then goes on to say the following:
"The potential for prolonged diplomatic damage should not be over-stated. While Canberra gains some benefit from intelligence sharing with Israel - mostly involving developments in Lebanon - formal agreements with allies, all of whom maintain links with their Israeli counterparts, mean it is highly unlikely Australia will be cut out of the intelligence loop. 'The major source of Australia's intelligence is through the ABCA [America, Britain, Canada, Australia] countries and anything of critical interest to both countries [Israel and Australia] will be passed on regardless of this affair', an Australian security analyst with extensive Middle East experience said. 'Australia's reliance on Israeli intelligence sourcing is almost negligible and anything of criticality will come through other sources. I don't see this as being a big intelligence problem at all'. Asked how critical any interruption on intelligence sharing would be on intelligence sharing between Canberra and Tel Aviv, the analyst replied: 'Not much. I've worked at the levels where I would see it and there is nothing much of any note. We might give them some stuff on JI [Jemaah Islamiyah] but they [Israel] would get it through the Americans, the Brits, the Canadians, even the Singaporeans: they have very close links with Israel'."
So why is it that we can't afford to have sour diplomatic relations with Israel?
PS: Could someone at News Limited please have a word in Andrew Bolt's ear? Here he is in a demarcation dispute with Mark Dodd: "It's not as if this decision doesn't come without a cost. Guess which of the two countries actually gains most from that exchange of information? We have soldiers in Iraq who are targets of the Islamist forces of which Hamas is part. In that part of the world, Israel has better sources." (The PM's trashing of brand Australia, Daily Telegraph, 26/5/10)