Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel might have lost a close friend when Tony Abbott was pushed aside as Australia’s prime minister by his own Liberal Party on Monday, but – according to diplomats and Australian Jewish leaders – it gained another staunch supporter with his replacement, Malcolm Turnbull.
“We go from one very good friend to another,” said Colin Rubenstein, the head of the Australia/ Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC). His comments echoed those of a senior diplomatic official in Jerusalem who said that Turnbull is a “true friend, much like Abbott.”
Turnbull defeated Abbott, who was prime minister for the past two years, by a 54-44 vote among party MPs.
Last month, at an appearance with Israeli journalist Shmuel Rosner at the Zionist Federation of Australia’s 2015 plenary, Turnbull said that “we see ourselves as having shared values with Israel.
“We see Israel as being in the first trench, on the first line in the battle against extremist tyranny, terrorism and so forth,” he said. “So we’re definitely on the same side.”
Turnbull said that his party was “determined to provide all the support we can to ensure that Israel remains a Jewish state within secure borders.
As to providing micro-managed armchair opinions regarding what the government of Israel should do on this matter or that matter...
we tend to defer to the Israeli government when it comes to making those decisions. After all, they are a lot closer to it than we are.”
Stating that the first duty of a state is the safety of its people, Turnbull said “you cannot seriously or credibly ask Israel to do things that put its existence in peril.”
Israel needs to be secure, he said. “And so when people make all sorts of suggestions and proposals, they sometimes may be well intentioned.
But we can’t be imposing, or proposing, measures to Israel that are going to put its security at risk. You can’t do that to any country. It’s also pointless – Israel is not going to take any note of that, nor should it.”
Australia’s envoy to Israel, Dave Sharma, told the Post that “the strong support for Israel under the Abbott government will continue under the Turnbull government.”
AIJAC issued a statement calling Turnbull “an exceptional friend of the Jewish community and a staunch supporter of Israel,” and said it had always “found him to be understanding of, and sympathetic towards, our concerns.” It thanked Abbot for his very warm relationship with the Australian Jewish community and unswerving commitment to Israel’s well-being and security.
On Wednesday, when Abbott was still prime minister, Australia was one of only seven countries that joined Israel and voted against a UN resolution enabling the Palestinians to raise their flag at the world body.
Turnbull, in an interview two years ago with the Australian Jewish News titled “Menachem Mendel Turnbull,” said his mother “always used to say that her mother’s family was Jewish.”
“I grew up in the Eastern Suburbs [of Sydney] and, as we all observe, there were a lot of Jews in the Eastern Suburbs, and I have always been very comfortable,” he said. “The strong traditions of family and the whole heimishe atmosphere of the Jewish community, which I’m sure some people don’t like, for me – as someone who is a good friend, but not part of it – I find very admirable.”