FOREIGN Minister Kevin Rudd has pledged the Government’s policy towards Israel is not up for negotiation with The Greens.
In an in-depth interview with The AJN this week, Rudd said that while the Government constantly negotiates with other political parties, particularly in the Senate, foreign policy was different.
“What I would say unequivocally is that when it comes to policy on Israel and the Middle East there will be no, repeat no, compromise on any matter of policy because of The Greens,” he said.
His strong statement was made in the wake of national debate this week over the NSW Greens’ policy to boycott goods made in Israel.
Facing accusations from Israeli diplomats that Australia could be breaching its international trade obligations by not stamping down on The Greens, Rudd’s condemnation of the policy and its instigator Lee Rhiannon left no doubt.
“The Greens senator-elect’s statement concerning a comprehensive boycott of Israel is repugnant, offensive and totally opposed to Australian Government policy, that’s the first point. The second is, because it doesn’t represent Australian Government policy, but simply the irresponsible rantings of a Greens senator-elect there is no case in terms of the WTO whatsoever.”
Rudd, who last month completed an exhaustive tour of the Middle East, including a visit to Israel, Jordan and two visits to Egypt, speculated the region’s future looked rocky.
He warned observers must keep watch on how some of the countries currently transitioning to democracy use that democracy.
“If a political movement uses a democratic process to obtain political power then extinguishes democracy once having obtained power and resorts to undemocratic means to exercise that power – that is what we must be mindful of across the Middle East,” he said.
He also noted Egyptian opinion polls had set Amr Moussa, a man who is not known as a friend to Israel, as frontrunner in the presidential elections.
Rudd, though, was guarded in his assessment of Moussa’s stance towards the ongoing presence of a Jewish State in the region.
“It is important that we work to understand what policies he would bring to bear in relation to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the future of the Middle East peace process,” the Foreign Minister said.
Rudd also addressed a joint, invitation-only Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council and Arnold Bloch Leibler lunch last Friday.
For our exclusive interview with Kevin Rudd, see this week’s AJN.
Image: Kevin Rudd (right) with Israeli President Shimon Peres in December. Photo: AJN file