SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — A former Australian prime minister is urging the Labor government to expel Israeli diplomats over forged Australian passports used in the assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai.
"I believe that is totally and absolutely unforgivable, and Australia’s disapproval should be registered by an action not less than that which the British took," Malcolm Fraser, whose center-right Liberal government held power from 1975 until 1983, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp Monday. "I think there’s been a long history, if you like, of double standards. People will not do, in relation to Israel, what they would do if the same action was conducted by some other country."
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied the Mossad agency’s involvement in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh on Jan. 19.
Fraser’s comments are in stark contrast to those of the current Liberal Party leader, Tony Abbott, who cautioned Prime Minister Kevin Rudd not to follow Britain’s precedent in dismissing an Israeli representative.
“We can never forget that Israel is a country under existential threat in a way Australians find difficult to understand," Abbott told the Weekend Australian newspaper on Saturday. "It’s also the only pluralist democracy in the Middle East.
“We have to understand that Israel sometimes has to do something which mercifully other countries are spared the necessity of doing. It strikes me that it would be an overreaction to expel an Israeli diplomat.”
Rudd said Australia would await the conclusions of a report by Australian Federal Police, who were dispatched to Israel to investigate how four Australian passports belonging to dual Australian-Israeli nationals were used in the slaying of al-Mabhouh.
Fraser was largely supportive of Israel while he was in power, but has become increasingly critical in the past few years and has advocated negotiating with Hamas, much to the consternation of Jewish community leaders.
"In recent times I believe Israel has taken the peace process in the Middle East so far backwards that countries ought to show their disapproval and ought to show their approval for the American administration which is trying to get the peace process moved forward," he said.