The worldâ€™s favourite punching bag, Israel, has been deemed guilty by Australiaâ€™s foreign minister Stephen Smith of falsifying passports in order to get its agents in and out of hostile nations safely.
Smith didnâ€™t state his evidence. And nor would we expect him to do so. But his decision followed an embarrassingly farcical investigation by the Australian Federal Police that saw its officer run over bicyclists in Israel.
Itâ€™s hard to imagine them finding a smoking gun. Or warm laminating machine.
We donâ€™t fault Smith too much in all of this. He is one person presiding over a department whose hostile intentions towards Israel couldnâ€™t be any more obvious if they donned a face mask and burned the countryâ€™s flag.
VEXNEWS understands Smith has done as much as possible to limit the desired departmental response.
He has long delayed the response, way beyond the knee-jerk over-reaction of the previous British government.
He has also minimised it, by apparently punting an Israeli cultural attache due to leave in a couple of weeks anyway.
His initial meeting with the Israeli Ambassador about this issue was said to be brief, formal and courteous.
Whatâ€™s not good is the perception that Australia engages in this kind of anti-Israel stunt motivated by a desire to win United Nations member votes for election to the Security Council.
The department Smith has the odious job of presiding over rates getting on the Security Council as desperately important. It even has a campaign page on DFATâ€™s website.
Nothing wrong with winning elections but we wonder whether the friends Australia needs to repudiate and the friends we need to make in order to win are worth this dubious prize?
It is widely understood that the Arab League, the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Union blocs at the UN are not willing to support Australia unless it distances itself from Israel.
VEXNEWS has recently learned that a senior federal government minister is soon to visit Syria, a leading force in the Arab League, and will be given an award by the nationâ€™s president for fostering close relations between that country and ours.
While there has been encouragement from Israelâ€™s government of talks between Syria and Israel, the Syrian Foreign Minister said over the weekend that their government â€œwill not be a policeman for Israelâ€, language interpreted as signalling that the country will continue to facilitate the transfer of weapons including Scud missiles to Hezbollah and other forces within Lebanon that attack Israel in the Arab worldâ€™s proxy war against the Jewish state.
Israelâ€™s government seems to believe it can have sensible peace discussions with Syria, an optimistic position we think but weâ€™re usually reluctant to second-guess people like its President Shimon Peres or Prime Minister Netanyahu. Unlike our own Department of Foreign Affairs, we cannot imagine either ever selling out their country. It has been interesting to see Bibiâ€™s conciliatory moves towards Syria. Hopefully it can drag its regime out of the gutter and into the light.
And while we trust Israelâ€™s leadership to get these things right, itâ€™s very difficult to have confidence in our own Department of Foreign Affairs that seems to desperate to climb the incredibly greasy pole of the United Nations that it is willing disregard long-term Australian friendships with countries that share our values.
Stephen Smithâ€™s reaction could have been worse but it is hard to imagine a federal department any worse than the bureaucracy over which he presides. They are a menace, an embarrassment and a national disgrace. They were just as bad under Howard and theyâ€™d be just as bad under Abbott, so itâ€™s not a party political thing.
Itâ€™s not time our democratically elected leaders took real control of Australiaâ€™s foreign policy and stopped suspending our disgust at brutal military or religious fundamentalist dictatorships of the kind that constitute Israelâ€™s enemies.
UPDATE: Labor MP Michael Danby has made it clear that there is a fair degree of resistance to the government’s announcement
Federal Member for Melbourne Ports
â€œExpulsion not supportedâ€
â€œI have previously & publicly (on Jon Faineâ€™s 774 program) said I condemn the misuse of Australian passports by any other country. However, I do not agree with the governmentâ€™s decision to remove an Israeli diplomat from Canberra. Neither France, Germany or Ireland have asked for an Israeli diplomat to be withdrawn as a result of the Dubai affairâ€
â€œThis announcement comes at a time when Australia is supporting just resumed Middle East peace negotiationsâ€
â€œI accept that this decision has been made but Australia has always been a good friend of Israel and I have no doubt that this relationship will remain intactâ€, Mr Danby said.