Israel facing loss of key Australian ally


Israel may lose one of its best friends when Australians go to the polls.

Prime Minister John Howard, a longstanding ally of Israel and the local Jewish community, on Sunday called for elections on Nov. 24 after weeks of faux electioneering. For months the major polls have predicted that Howard’s Liberal Party will lose in a landslide to the Labor Party, which needs to win 16 more seats to take power in the 150-seat legislature.

Jewish leaders have referred to Howard’s 11 years in power as a “golden age” for the Jewish community and Canberra’s relationship with Jerusalem.

These leaders believe Howard’s Labor opponent, Kevin Rudd, will be strong on Israel and an ally of the Jewish community. They are concerned, however, about rogue elements on Labor’s backbench, who have been hostile to Israel in the past.

Howard’s relationship with the Jews dates back to the 1960s when he was a clerk in a Jewish law firm in Sydney. By contrast Rudd, who hails from Queensland, made his first trip to Israel in 2003.

Four Jewish candidates are running in next month’s general elections, including parliament member Michael Danby and Mark Dreyfus, both in Melbourne; George Newhouse, a human rights lawyer and former Zionist youth leader; and Sam Miszkowski.

Voting is compulsory for the estimated 13 million Australians over 18.

Recommended from JTA