SYDNEY (JTA) – Australia won a temporary two-year seat on the U.N. Security Council despite critics suggesting its support for Israel would hamper the bid.
The country, which was up against Finland and Luxembourg for one of two seats in the 2013-14 term, won 140 votes in the first round of Thursday’s secret ballot of all 193 members of the U.N. General Assembly. At least 129 votes were needed to secure a seat.
Michael Danby, a Jewish government legislator, said the victory was "vindication" that the government "does not need to compromise Australian democratic values to win this position."
"Never once," he said, did Australia compromise its support for Israel. Critics, however, point to the government’s changed voting pattern on Israel-related votes in the United Nations under Labor as compared to the virtual wall-to-wall support for the Jewish state under the previous Liberal government.
Australian Jewish leaders, who previously had declined to comment on allegations that the government’s support for Israel could cost Canberra the seat, rushed to congratulate the Labor Party.
The magnitude of Australia’s win "refuted decisively" those who claimed the bid was compromised by Australia’s support for America and Israel, the leaders of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry said in a statement on Friday.
"Australia does not need to weaken its adherence to its long-standing principles and allegiances in order to win international respect and support," said the Danny Lamm, the group’s president, and Peter Wertheim, its executive director.
Philip Chester, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, said he hoped that Australia would discourage moves at the UN by the Palestinians for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.
Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, said he hoped Australia would use the seat to address the UN’s "systematic, entrenched and obsessive biases against Israel" and an impediment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The election is the first time since 1986 that Australia has won a seat on the Security Council. Israel is bidding for a temporary seat in 2018.