Party in new Australian gov’t spurs fears over Israel support


SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – Australia’s prime minister has formed a minority government that includes two Jewish lawmakers and a party that some fear may compromise support for Israel.

Michael Danby and Mark Dreyfus, both of the Labor Party, will be part of the government established by Julia Gillard, also of Labor, following more than two weeks of brinkmanship.

Gillard, who became the country’s first female prime minister when she replaced Kevin Rudd in a bloodless coup in June, won the support of independent lawmakers and the Greens Party to squeak into power with the requisite 76 seats in the 150-seat lower house. The opposition will include Joshua Frydenberg, the first federal Jewish lawmaker for the Liberal Party.

Gillard’s deal with the Greens has some concerned it may compromise Labor’s support for Israel, especially in the aftermath of the expulsion of an Israeli official from the embassy in Canberra.

The Greens’ policy on the Middle East backs a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the settlements, the dismantling of the security fence, United Nations sanctions and more aid for the Palestinians. But Labor is adamant its policy will not change.

“The government’s policies are the policies that it took to the election,” said a Labor spokesperson quoted in the Australian Jewish News. “Australia’s longstanding support for Israel and for a two-state solution to the conflict in the Middle East will not change.”

Israeli journalist Ron Ben-Yishai, who was in Australia for the Aug. 21 elections, said the Greens are “not good news for the government of Israel.”

“The Greens are really the left wing of the Labor Party, which split from them, and their positions on the Arab-Israeli conflict are no different to those of the British radical left,” he wrote in the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot.

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