AUSTRALIA’S new government has changed the country’s vote on two annual United Nations motions condemning Israeli settlements.
Under the previous Labor government, Australia voted for the resolutions, but under the Coalition it abstained.
The move drew criticism from former foreign minister Bob Carr.
In an opinion piece published in the Fairfax media, Carr labelled it a shame “in the deepest sense” that Australia had “stopped doing the right thing”.
“This new Australian stance is not the action of a true friend of Israel,” he wrote.
“Our new position of condoning ‘the settlement mission’ of expansionist Israelis (opposed by other Israelis) undermines the prospect of a Palestinian state.”
Carr also reiterated his often repeated assertion while foreign minister that all settlements are illegal under international law.
Questioned about the vote change, a spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Australia strongly supported resumed final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
“This approach is reflected in the government’s position on voting on Middle East-related resolutions in the UN,” the spokesperson said.
“Australia considers each Middle East-related resolution on a case-by-case basis, and on its merits.”
In another gesture by the new government to strengthen Australia-Israel ties, Israeli citizens were last week officially granted fast-tracked electronic access to visas for short-term visits to Australia, fulfilling a pre-election promise.
Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Michaelia Cash said: “Citizens of Israel will find the process for applying for a visitor visa for travel to Australia faster than ever.”
But Education Minister Christopher Pyne is yet to confirm if he will uphold another pre-election pledge, made by Julie Bishop, that would deny prominent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activist Associate Professor Jake Lynch a research grant.
Prior to Abbott’s election victory, then opposition foreign affairs spokesperson Bishop pledged that, if elected, the Coalition would institute a policy to ensure no taxpayer funds would be awarded to individuals or organisations who support BDS.
The AJN understands Pyne has not been presented with Lynch’s application.
He has said if a grant for an individual or institution that actively supports the BDS campaign arises, “we will address it at that time”.
Pyne has strongly condemned BDS, labelling it “blatantly anti-Semitic” and saying it wrongly targets Israel.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.