John Howard, a staunch ally of Israel and America, has been swept from power in Australia after 11 years of conservative rule.
Australians delivered a landslide victory to Labor in Saturday’s compulsory elections. The country’s new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, will lead a government that includes two Jewish members of parliament – the first Jews to sit in government since 1990.
Howard, Australia’s second longest-serving prime minister, appears to have lost his own seat in parliament after 33 years.
While Rudd has forged close ties to the 110,000-strong Jewish community in Australia since he became Labor leader last December, the 50-year-old from Queensland is not expected to be able to replicate Howard’s rock-solid support for the Jewish state. Rudd visited in 2003 and 2005.
The two victorious Jewish candidates were Michael Danby and Mark Dreyfus, who was standing in his first election for the seat of Isaacs, named after Australia’s first Jewish governor-general, Sir Isaac Isaacs.
Some analysts have speculated that Labor’s support for Israel may waver at the United Nations.
However, Rudd has declared that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should be tried at the International Court of Justice for his genocidal declaration to “wipe Israel off the map.” He also has vowed not to negotiate with Hamas “unless it undergoes radical change.”
George Newhouse, a high-profile Jewish lawyer, failed in his bid to unseat Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Wentworth, the nation’s largest Jewish electorate.
Also elected was Mike Kelly, a former colonel who served in Iraq and whose wife is Israeli, and Nicola Roxon, whose father was a Polish Jew.