Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Envoy to Canberra to have term cut short

From Haaretz, 01/11/2006 by Charlotte Hall [emphasis added]....

The Israeli envoy to Australia whose comments about Asians caused a storm there will have his term shortened, Foreign Ministry sources said yesterday. Ambassador Naftali Tamir, who [reportedly] described Australia and Israel as white sisters amid "the yellow race" in an interview with Haaretz, which appeared on October 13, is now on his way back to Canberra following a two-week review process in Jerusalem, where he denied having made the comments attributed to him, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.

... Following the publication of the interview, Tamir was immediately recalled to Israel while en route to Australia to explain his comments. The ministry swiftly condemned the reported remarks as "grave and unacceptable," adding that it would not return to business as usual if its internal review confirmed the ambassador had indeed made the statements. Regev refrained from commenting on whether Tamir's version of events was accepted by his seniors at the ministry, stating only: "The ambassador denied the remarks attributed to him immediately following their publication and he did so through all stages of the internal Foreign Ministry review. He is on his way back and will arrive in Australia tomorrow."

Under usual circumstances, Tamir, who arrived in Canberra in January 2005, would have been expected to remain in post for four years, but his return date is now likely to be sometime in 2007. Tamir's anticipated early departure from his post is aimed at minimizing the damage caused by the affair, say sources close to the ministry. The plan to shorten Tamir's term of office will be made clear to his host governments, a ministry insider added....

....It is still unclear what reception Tamir will face on his return to Canberra. While the Jewish community is likely to rally round the ambassador, the Australian government and particularly the media may be less understanding. Some in Australia's Jewish community fear that Tamir's return will cause further damage, providing ammunition to those who charge that Israel is a racist state and that the Australian government should moderate its overtly pro-Israel stance.

Diplomatic observers have speculated that firing or recalling Tamir without conclusive proof (as the interview was not taped) that he made the comments would leave the ministry open to legal action. "The ministry didn't have much room for maneuver," said one insider....

Note that the publisher of this article, Haaretz, originally reported the Ambassador's statements, which he categorically denies.

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