CANBERRA (Oct. 11)
Prime Minister Bob Hawke has given assurances that the Australian government would require clear commitments from the Arab League that any office it may be permitted to establish in Australia would not engage in any boycott activities against Israel or Australian citizens or firms trading with Israel.
Furthermore, Hawke said the activities of any such office would be carefully monitored and any breaches of this commitment would lead to the office’s closure.
These assurances were given by Hawke to a delegation of Jewish communal leaders who met with him in Canberra last Thursday. The delegation conveyed the community’s profound concern at last week’s Middle East policy statement by the government announcing it would consider allowing an Arab League office and permit unofficial contacts with the PLO at the ambassadorial level.
The delegation leaders, Isi Leibler, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, and Dr. Albert Silver, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, expressed continuing reservations about aspects of the policy but said the Prime Minister’s assurances would help to ease fears that the Australian government was undertaking a major change of policy tilted against Israel.
BASIS FOR COMMUNITY’S DISQUIET
The delegation informed Hawke that the Jewish community’s disquiet about Arab League offices stems from their record as vehicles for promoting PLC activities and from their extensive international orchestration of anti-Israel Arab trade boycott activities directed against companies and individuals trading or wishing to trade with Israel.
Leibler said the delegation welcomed the Prime Minister’s assurances that no such discrimination against Australian companies or individuals would be tolerated and Hawke’s reiteration that the government would not permit PLO participation in such an office in any form.
Hawke reaffirmed that his government’s support and commitment to Israel remains completely undiminished and fundamental to its policy. In addition, he expressed his hope that all Arab countries would recognize Israel’s right to exist in secure and recognized boundaries and the need for direct negotiations.
NO SOFTENING TOWARD THE PLO
On the issue of the government’s decision allowing Australian Ambassadors to have contact with PLO officials, the Prime Minister rejected any suggestion of concessions or softening towards the PLO. Hawke added that the government remained firmly committed to its policy of not recognizing the PLO while that body continued to deny Israel’s right to exist.
Responding to expressions of deep concern by the delegation in relation to perceived changes in Australia’s voting pattern at the United Nations, the Prime Minister gave a firm undertaking that in the future, with regard to resolutions containing one-sided anti-Israeli elements, Australia will be cautious and avoid voting with those countries seeking to delegitimize Israel.