Australian leaders voice concerns to foreign minister


SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – A high-profile delegation of Jewish leaders met with Australia’s foreign minister in a bid to assuage concerns of a rift over U.N. resolutions on Israel.

Representatives of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the Zionist Federation of Australia and the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council urged Stephen Smith in their meeting Nov. 13 in Canberra not to change the country’s recent “proud and principled” voting record at the United Nations.

The meeting follows the Labor government’s decision earlier this month to support two U.N. resolutions critical of Israel that the previous Liberal government had long opposed.

The Jewish delegates told Smith they were “disappointed and concerned” that the Australian government supported two “unmistakably polemical and one-sided” resolutions that call for Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank and for the Geneva Convention to apply there.

The previous Liberal government had opposed or abstained on the two annual resolutions since 2003, making Australia, along with America and the four tiny Pacific islands of Palau, Micronesia, Nauru and the Marshall Islands, among the staunchest supporters of Israel at the United Nations.

In a statement Monday, Executive Council President Robert Goot said the change in Australia’s vote “encourages elements within the U.N. and the European Union that are openly hostile to Israel to continue their one-sided, out-of-context criticisms of the Israeli government.”

Australia will regret its support of these resolutions, he warned.

Jewish lawmaker Michael Danby told the Australian Jewish News that it was a “mistake” for the government to change its vote, but he stressed that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s government is “one of the Jewish state’s principal international friends.” Smith, who visited Israel last month, said the government would “do nothing to jeopardize” its commitment to a two-state solution.

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