Australians across that great southland are excitedly anticipating the first-ever visit to their country this week by a sitting Israeli prime minister.
Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive Wednesday for a five-day visit – longer than the one he just made to the United States. Australian Ambassador to Israel David Sharma has described this as a “massively significant” and “historic” event.
This truth differs diametrically from the picture portrayed by the British and Israeli press over the past 24 hours.
In a classic case of ‘fake news,’ prominent coverage has been accorded by The Guardian and The Jerusalem Post – among many others – to an open letter signed by a mere 60 so-called ‘prominent Australians’ opposing Netanyahu’s visit.
Under glaringly exaggerated headlines, like the Post’s “No Love Lost for Bibi in Australia”, these organs make it appear as if the skewed sentiments of a handful of has-beens (including former Federal Court judge Murray Wilcox, former solicitor-general Gavan Griffith and retired Anglican Bishop George Browning) represent the feelings of millions of ordinary Australians – as if Netanyahu is persona non grata Down Under.
What a load of bull.
These “journalists” transparently are out to sour the sentiment of what will in reality be a very sweet moment in the enduring bilateral relations.
For the 100 years since the famous ANZAC-led liberation of Beersheba – Australia has been more consistently supportive of Israel than any other nation on earth.
Accompanying Netanyahu is the largest ever delegation of Israeli companies, according to the Financial Review – under its more accurate headline “Netanyahu visit ‘very exciting’ for Australian business.“
And I can speak personally to nationwide Australian attitudes.
Three times in the last two years I have traveled to and extensively around that country, addressing the uniqueness of the relationship between Australia and the State of Israel – and to the importance of maintaining that mateship at that level in the face of an increasingly anti-Israel world.
As a consequence of these visits, thousands of Christian Australians submitted petitions that were tabled in both the Senate and the House of Representatives in Canberra in 2015, thanking their government for its strong support of Israel and exhorting it to resist massive efforts by Israel’s enemies – including blatant and typical Arab threats of blackmail and boycott – to turn their country against the Jewish state.
Yes, support for Israel is widespread and strong. From Cairns to Brisbane, Sydney to Canberra, Melbourne to Tasmania, Adelaide to Perth – I have seen and heard it everywhere.
Bibi will too.
In a transparent effort to deny the true state of affairs between the two countries, the overwhelmingly left wing media regularly misrepresents Australia’s official position. The way it communicates Australia’s support for the “two state solution” makes it appear as if that country stands shoulder to shoulder with the international community on the matter.
The truth is more subtle but in fact precise and – for Israel – much more encouraging.
In the above-mentioned petition, thousands of Australians commended their government for its hands-off stand on “two states” which at that time was only comparable to the morality-based position of the Canadian government of then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They called for their government to keep resisting the growing international trend to interfere in the negotiating process and pressure Israel by unilaterally recognizing the non-existent State of Palestine.
Hitherto, Australia has held to this position and, according to reports in the Australian press today, the Liberal-led government will continue to do so.
A related classic case of ‘fake news’ has been the coverage just given worldwide to US President Donald Trump’s statement – as he stood alongside Netanyahu in the White House last week – that he is willing to live with either two states or one state, “whatever the parties want.”
What the media reported was pure misinformation: that Trump had dropped 40 years of US foreign policy and was ready to see the two state solution done away with as a formula for peace.
The new American president said nothing of the kind. He simply promised to maintain, support and act on Israel’s right to choose its own solution. In this he returned the United States – which under Barack Obama led a prejudiced policy that culminated in its permitting the passage of the skewed Security Council Resolution 2334 – back to its position as laid out by George W. Bush in 2002.
Let us be clear. Bush’s “Two State solution” formula was clearly this: If the Israelis and Palestinians would come up with a solution, the United States would recognise it. Only IF. The US would not seek to impose a solution or interfere in the process.
Which is all that Trump said to Netanyahu in Washington: that his administration will support “whatever the parties want.” Anti-Trump and anti-Israel fake news says the American backed away from the “two state solution”.
That is patently untrue.
Australia’s position has been the same. It supports a solution agreed to by the two parties to the conflict. Unlike the many nations that are unilaterally recognising a State of Palestine, Australia has refused to. Like the Abbott government in 2015, the Turnbull government today maintains it supports a two state solution PROVIDED the Israelis and Palestinians AGREE TO IT.
(Where this even handed approach will get out of kilter is if Australian politicians insist on pushing the idea of movement towards such a solution after it has become apparent that there is no way to achieve it – and that continuing to support it only, in reality, serves to perpetuate the conflict. Of course, some strongly argue that we have already arrived at this point; that after a quarter of a century of failed massive efforts to achieve a resolution down this road. It is up to those who – like me – hold the view that this land-for-peace process has manifestly failed, and has led to increased conflict and the danger of more war to persuade the Australian government to abandon all support for the two state solution.)
What we can be sure of, then, is that the predominantly left wing media will cover Netanyahu’s visit by giving enormous exposure to anti-Israel sentiments like those expressed by the handful of pro-Palestinian activists who have declared that they will protest the Netanyahu visit.
Expect to see and hear in the media very little about the thousands of Australians who are thrilled about it.
On Saturday, February 25 – the last day of Netanyahu’s visit – Christians around the Australian continent will gather for the country’s annual National Day of Prayer of Fasting, at which prayer for Israel will be included.
Said the organizers Monday: “It is no accident that the Prime Minister of Israel is in Australia at exactly the same time [as this national prayer event]. Many throughout Australia will be praying for this momentous visit and for the nation of Israel. What an honour to be able to stand beside Israel in prayer on our very soil, on this 100th Anniversary year of the Battle of Beersheba.”
Israel has a great many mates Down Under.