Former foreign minister Bob Carr has just shone the light, albeit a weak one (but better than none), on a dark corner of Australian political life, the distorting influence of the Israel lobby on Australian foreign policy in the Middle East. Some excerpts from the current reportage:
7.30 Report, 9/4/14:
Sarah Ferguson: Let's go to the book. The strongest criticism of all... is aimed at the Melbourne Jewish lobby. Now, there are lobby groups for every cause under the sun. What's wrong with the way that group operates?
Bob Carr: Well the important point about a diary of a foreign minister is that you shine light on areas of government that are otherwise in darkness and the influence of lobby groups is one of those areas. And what I've done is to spell out how the extremely conservative instincts of the pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne was exercised through the then-prime minister's office... I found it very frustrating that we couldn't issue, for example, a routine expression of concern about the spread of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Great blocks of housing for Israeli citizens going up on land that everyone regards as part of a future Palestinian state, if there is to be a two-state solution resolving the standoff between Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East.
SF: You're saying that the Melbourne Jewish lobby had a direct impact on foreign policy as it was operated from inside Julia Gillard's cabinet?
BC: Yeah, I would call it the Israel lobby - I think that's important. But certainly they enjoyed extraordinary influence. I had to resist it and my book tells the story of that resistance coming to a climax when there was a dispute on the floor of caucus about my recommendation that we don't block the Palestinian bid for increased non-state status at the United Nations.
SF: They're still a very small group of people. How do you account for them wielding so much power?
BC: I think party donations and a program of giving trips to MPs and journalists to Israel. But that's not to condemn them. I mean, other interest groups do the same thing. But it needs to be highlighted because I think it reached a very unhealthy level. I think the great mistake of the pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne is to express an extreme right-wing Israeli view rather than a more tolerant liberal Israeli view, and in addition to that, to seek to win on everything, to block the foreign minister of Australia through their influence with the prime minister's office, from even making the most routine criticism of Israeli settlement policy using the kind of language that a conservative foreign secretary from the UK would use in a comparable statement at the same time.
Sydney Morning Herald, 10/4/14:
"Bob Carr has published private messages between himself and Julia Gillard to reveal the 'extraordinary' level of influence the pro-Israel lobby had on the former prime minister's office. In a remarkable disclosure of private conversations, Mr Carr said he chose to publish the text messages in his book - Diary of a Foreign Minister - without getting Ms Gillard's permission, because to do so was in the national interest. He also describes Israel's former ambassador as 'cunning' and reveals his fights with the self-described pro-Israel 'falafel faction' in Labor's caucus that includes Jewish MPs Mark Dreyfus and Michael Danby... 'The public should know how foreign policy gets made, especially when it appears the prime minister is being heavily lobbied by one interest group with a stake in Middle East policy.'... Mr Carr's criticisms of Israel touch the highest levels of the Israeli government. Mr Carr describes Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as 'gloomy, taciturn', and the former Israeli ambassador Yuval Rotem as 'the cunning Yuval'. In diary entries Mr Carr reveals just how deep his division with Ms Gillard went. He complains that Ms Gillard would not even let him criticise Israeli West Bank settlements due to her fear it would anger Australia's pro-Israel lobby - a reference to the Melbourne-based Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council - which Mr Carr says had a direct line into the prime minister's office. 'So, we can't even 'express concern' without complaint,' Mr Carr writes. 'This lobby must fight every inch.'
"Reproducing private text messages, Mr Carr suggests Ms Gillard's support of Israel was so immovable that she would not even allow him to change Australia's vote on what he considered to be a minor UN motion. 'Julia - motion on Lebanon oil spill raises no Palestinian or Israel security issues. In that context I gave my commitment to Lebanon,' Mr Carr writes in a text message. 'No reason has been given to me to change,' Ms Gillard reportedly replies. 'Julia - not so simple,' Mr Carr responds. 'I as foreign minister gave my word. I was entitled to because it had nothing to do with Palestinian status or security of Israel.' Ms Gillard shuts him down in a final terse message: 'Bob... my jurisdiction on UN resolutions isn't confined to ones on Palestine and Israel'." (Bob Carr's texts to Gillard reveal 'extraordinary' influence pro-Israel lobby had on former PM, Jonathan Swan)
Sydney Morning Herald, 10/4/14:
"Less than a fortnight before Mr Rudd's loss in the election, the two men meet in Canberra... and acknowledge Labor has no hope of being returned. Mr Rudd laments on how so few hold power in Australia. '[Mr Rudd] reflects on how few people run the country: the Murdoch media, the heads of Rio and BHP, probably the heads of the big banks, and 'that mob', by which he means the hard-line... pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne.' Mr Carr calls it Mr Rudd's Richard II moment: 'Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the deaths of kings'." (Bob Carr's Diary takes aim at Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd for mistakes, Tom Allard & Jonathan Swan)