Thursday, September 21, 2017

When Rudd Went Rogue...

Ever dreamt of having the POWER & INFLUENCE to put words into a politician's mouth? Read on:

"Five days later I [John Lyons] was in Cairo, covering a visit by Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd. At a news conference, he spoke about his desire for Iran to agree the regular international inspections of its nuclear facilities. An Egyptian journalist asked: if Iran and other nations had to agree to inspections, why shouldn't Israel? Rudd remarked that he could not dispute the logic, and agreed that all countries with nuclear weapons should have to submit to regular inspections.

"My ears pricked up. I knew Israel preferred that nobody even referred to their nuclear weapons, let alone talked about inspections...

"So after the news conference I asked Rudd if he could elaborate on his comments. He told me: 'Our view has been consistent for a long period of time, and that is that all States in the region should adhere to the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty], and that includes Israel. And therefore their nuclear facility should be subject to IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspection.'

"Soon afterwards, Rudd was a guest at one of Albert Dadon's banquets at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem... The evening had been going calmly... when the mood in the room suddenly changed. An unwelcome guest had just arrived at the banquet courtesy of the Internet. My interview with Kevin Rudd in which he declared that Israel should not be exempt from international inspections had just been published online. People were standing looking at their phones and reading the story. The anger started bouncing off the walls.

"Sylvie came over to me: 'That man over there is telling people that you've verballed Kevin Rudd in your interview!'

"'That man' was Yuval Rotem, Israel's Ambassador to Australia - who had travelled to Jerusalem for that trip...

"By now it was fair to say I was pretty fired up. So often people instinctively blame the messenger if they don't like what someone has said. And so I went looking for Rotem. 'Ambassador, I hear you are telling people that Kevin Rudd did not make those comments about nuclear inspectors.'

"Rotem seemed uncomfortable that I had challenged him. 'Well, no Australian foreign minister has ever said that before,' he answered. 'Why would Kevin Rudd say it?'

"'Don't you think that's a question for you to ask Kevin Rudd?' I resonded. 'There are two tapes of that interview - I have one and Mr Rudd's staff have one. Would you like a copy? And Mr Rudd is just over there... '

"Just then Rudd's chief of staff, Philip Green, walked past. I beckoned him over. 'Philip, Mr Rotem is saying Foreign Minister Rudd never called for international inspectors for Israel's nuclear facilities.'

"'He did,' replied green. 'We have no problem with your story.'

"I then went looking for [Michael] Danby, who was also telling people in the room he doubted the story, and explained the same thing to him. Danby then switched his anger from me to Rudd. 'I'm going to take this up with Andrea Faulkner,' he said, referring to the Australian Ambassador to Israel...

"Now that it was clear that the quotes were not made up, the gates of fury opened against Kevin Rudd. The next morning I saw huddles in the foyer of the King David Hotel as different groups from Dadon's delegation discussed the issue.

"Dadon told me that while theoretically Israel should be under the same regime of inspections as anyone else, in reality they should be exempt. He was going to talk to Rudd and insist that he say at his upcoming press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that Israel had 'unique' security circumstances'.

"At the press conference, Lieberman addressed the nuclear issue. 'What is important is not whether any country is a member of the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] but whether it is responsible,' he said. 'Israel does not regard any inspector as necessary, as it is a responsible country, and we have proved this for many years.'

"Then came Rudd's turn to speak. He concentrated more on Iran's situation, saying Australia was deeply concerned about Iran's nuclear program. Then he mentioned Israel. 'We recognise... Israel's unique security circumstances... but in terms of our fundamental position on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as it applies to this region... all states should be in, including Israel.'

"And so, while he had restated his position, he had added the words that Dadon told me he had wanted him to add.

"Dadon could not come to the press conference but, knowing that I was going along, telephoned me at home that night. He asked: 'Did Kevin use the phrase 'unique security circumstances?'

"'Yes,' I said.

"'Good.'" (Balcony Over Jerusalem: A Middle East Memoir, 2017, pp 268-71)

For the details as reported at the time, see my 20/12/10 post The Kevin Rudd Road Show 2.

Yet again: BUY THIS BOOK!

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