It’s unlikely we’ll do much to punish Israel
After a torrent of undiplomatic language in the days after they discovered that Israel had used forged Australian passports in the assassination plot against a terrorist gun dealer in Dubai, Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith have fallen silent.
The British Government has stepped up its diplomatic offensive against Tel Aviv over the passport scandal by expelling Mossad’s London station chief, but Canberra has so far not followed suit although we have abstained from a vote in the United Nations.
Britain has a much more robust tradition of hard headed diplomacy than Australia. Our diplomats are trained to whisper and dance a two-step with the devil rather than risk the megaphone and a public confrontation.
And when it comes to Israel it is definitely rice paper and egg shells before jackboots and a blunt instrument.
So Mossad’s station chief in Canberra, not an arduous job even at the worst of times, remains at his or her post in the leafy Canberra suburb of Yarralumla, blissfully certain that he or she won’t be summoned to the RG Casey Building for a bollocking and their marching orders.
Not that such a move would unduly worry Israel or its Mossad security agency.
Dubai has accused Israeli agents of using no fewer than 27 cloned foreign passports during their operation to take out Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh last month.
Following that diplomatic debacle, Israeli authorities gave the green light to a new block of 1600 apartments in disputed East Jerusalem during a visit to Israel by US vice-president Joe Biden.
It was payback time earlier last week when President Barack Obama walked out of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to have dinner with his family.
Such is the extent of Washington’s ``white hot’’ anger with the Israeli regime that not a single photograph of the leaders meeting was released by the White House. That is virtually unprecedented and in diplomatic terms gives the visit the status of a call by the night cart.
So Britain and the US are adopting a hard line against Israel, albeit for different reasons, while the Rudd regime remains silent and inactive.
The reason is ostensibly to allow the Australian Federal Police to conclude its investigation into how Australian passports came to be used by a Mossad hit squad.
That investigation is unlikely to be receiving the full cooperation of Israeli authorities and will almost certainly draw a blank. So what happens then?
Will Mr Rudd and his foreign minister take matters into their own hands and call in the Israeli ambassador followed by a press conference to express ``our sincere disappointment’‘?
Or will the government go further and declare Tel Aviv’s ``cultural attache’’ in Canberra persona non grata? Or will it simply wait for a quiet apology from Israel and a promise to never do it again?
The smart money is on the latter.
Such is Israel’s standing in terms of Middle Eastern diplomacy that middle powers such as Australia cannot afford to ostracize it.
In the very likely event of a future conflict in the region involving say Israel and Iran, it would be vital for Australia to remain engaged with Tel Aviv and the regime that is the only true democracy in the entire Middle East.
Israel knows how vital this relationship is and she knows that ultimately Australia will just have to cop the passports insult on the chin. Canberra simply does not have the diplomatic sway or the balls to do anything else.
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