As if the events described in my last post were not enough, today's Australian Jewish News reveals a second meeting between our normally inaccessible prime minister and an even greater gaggle of Zionist lobbyists at The Lodge on June 3. But this time around, if the AJN is to be believed, it was at Rudd's behest:
"The six, chosen personally by the PM, were Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council chairman Mark Leibler, Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot, Zionist Federation of Australia president Philip Chester, Yachad Accelerated Learning Project convenor Helene Teichmann, Jewish Labour Forum founder Bruce Solomon, Australia Israel Cultural Exchange founder Albert Dadon and Jewish Community Council of Western Australia representative Steve Lieblich. Joining the group for a kosher dinner in The Lodge's dining room were MPs Michael Danby and Michael Dreyfus. 'The group discussed recent developments in relations with Israel, and confirmed that the bilateral relationship was strong and that the Government will be pressing ahead with the next phase of the relationship', a spokesman for the Prime Minister said... According to participants, Rudd explained the Government's decisions and the reasoning behind those decisions. Participants then spoke in turn, expressing their thoughts on recent events... 'The meeting was both welcome and timely and the Prime Minister's and the Foreign Minister's positive remarks on a number of new initiatives, gives us great confidence that the relationship between the Jewish community and the Government will continue to be close and cooperative as we focus on the future' [, said Goot]. Those initiatives include an official visit by Trade Minister Simon Crean to Israel from July 14 - 17 and the receipt of an official Israeli ministerial delegation by Canberra in coming months. The Prime Minister expressed his own wish to visit Israel for a third time, but said domestic matters were keeping him at home. Rudd emphasised that unlike most other countries, Australia had not called for a UN investigation after Israel confronted the flotilla of activists trying to break the Gaza blockade. 'There was no specific singling out of Israel for condemnation, just a condemnation of violence', Leibler reported. Rudd also called for a greater flow of humanitarian aid into the Hamas-controlled zone, but at no time spoke in favour of the removal of the blockade, noting that it was vital Israel prevented arms shipments into Gaza. On the matter of passport forgeries and whether or not the Australian government was right in its decision to expel an Israeli diplomat, Liebler admitted that Rudd and some of the other dinner guests had 'a difference of opinion there'." (Rudd reaches out to leaders)
So to sum up:
1) Obviously, "the cooling-off period so far as the relationship between our respective international agencies are concerned" that Smith talked about following the government's decision to expel an Israeli 'diplomat' over the passport affair (see my 28/5/10 post The Heat Is On) does not apply to Australia's political and economic contacts with the Passport Purloining State.
2) Rudd's June 1 statement about the government condemning "any use of violence under the sorts of circumstances that we have seen" has now become a mere contextless, generic condemnation of violence.
3) And his June 1 talk of removing the blockade against Gaza in so far as it prevents "the supply of humanitarian aid," incredibly, has been unsaid! In his analysis of Rudd's invitation to the six lobbyists, the AJN's Zeddy Lawrence elaborates: "[I]t has become apparent that the Government was unhappy with the perception of its message in the wake of last week's flotilla crisis. As many of our readers have noticed and notified us about, some coverage of this event in the mainstream media has been reactionary and irresponsible. A case in point were reports that Rudd had called for the blockade on Gaza to be dismantled. This is a position the Government now vehemently denies. Part of the blame here rests on the PM himself, who delivered a garbled message full of half clauses and commas at a press conference." (Why were they invited?)
What are we to make of all this? That Rudd simply has no balls? Or is the problem bigger than that?
To quote Sydney Morning Herald journalist Peter Hartcher's anonymous "Australian official" back in February, following the eruption of the passport scandal: "'It wouldn't matter whether it was John Howard or Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott in the prime minister's chair, they know we wouldn't sever relations. They know they've got us by the balls', partly because of the strength of the Israel lobby', he said." (Betrayed PM should not be taken for granted by Israel, SMH, 26/2/10)
The strength of the Israel lobby, eh? Now there's the rub.