Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Australian Jewish Leaders meet with Foreign Minister

From a Press Release by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the Zionist Federation of Australia [my own emphasis added - SL]:

On Thursday 13th November 2008, a delegation [from ECAJ, ZFA and AIJAC] met with the Hon Stephen Smith MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs...

...The delegation advised the Minster that the Jewish community was disappointed and concerned that the Australian Government last weekend changed its vote at the UN on two Fourth Committee resolutions relating to Settlements and the Geneva Convention. The Minister was told that the reasons that have been advanced by the Government for the changed vote seemed less than persuasive. The terms of the two resolutions in question have not been altered from those of previous years and Australia’s former objections to them remain valid.

The delegation expressed the view that the changed vote encourages elements within the UN and EU that are openly hostile to Israel to continue their one-sided, out-of-context criticisms of the Israeli Government. The resolution therefore also makes it more difficult to secure public support among Israelis and Palestinians for the painful concessions that peace will ultimately require from both sides.

The delegation also pointed out that while both resolutions ostensibly seek to promote the international rule of law, because their terms are unmistakably polemical and one-sided, the effect is the opposite. Neither resolution does anything to advance or enhance the prospects of peace based on a two-state solution. The delegation expressed the belief that in time Australia will have cause to regret its changed vote in support of those resolutions.

The delegation then dealt with the 11 further resolutions of various Committees of the UN which will be voted on in the near future and stated that although a case could be made in support of Australia changing 3 of its votes from abstentions to opposition, the Jewish community merely sought the Minister’s assurance that Australia would not change its vote in respect of each of the 11 resolutions, from that recorded in 2007.

In response the Minister assured the delegation that in voting on each resolution Australia would follow the same principles that it had followed in voting on the Fourth Committee resolutions but declined to give any assurance that Australia’s vote would be unchanged.

However, as the delegation pointed out, the underlying principles at stake are the same in respect of each resolution. The one-sidedness of the text and the failure to demand reciprocity from the Palestinian side undermine both the rule of law and the cause of peace...

...In the circumstances, the delegation urged the Minister not to again change Australia’s recent proud and principled voting record on resolutions found unacceptable and inappropriate by successive Australian Governments....
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