New Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is a self-declared critic of Israel whose Labor Party has called for recognition of a Palestinian state.
Albanese, who won Saturday’s election, has said he is “very critical of a lot of Israel’s policies” and a “strong advocate of justice for Palestinians.” He has called Israel an “oppressor” and accused it of collective punishment against Palestinians.
Earlier this month, however, Albanese said, “Israel will have Australia’s friendship and support” from a Labor government.
“Labor’s national platform makes clear the desire of the conference to recognize Palestine as a state while acknowledging this will ultimately be a matter for a future Labor government,” Albanese told The Australian Jewish News ahead of the election. “The only way that a two-state solution can be achieved is through a negotiated outcome between the two parties.”
Albanese also said he is “passionate” about opposing the boycott Israel movement.
“Whenever asked about BDS I have been totally consistent in my opposition to it,” he stated, using the initials of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
Last year, Queensland’s Labor branch passed a resolution accusing Israel of ethnically cleansing Palestinians. Labor politician Penny Wong, likely to be Australia’s next foreign minister, said the resolution “will not advance peace.”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett congratulated Albanese on his election victory.
“Israel and Australia are close friends and I look forward to working together with [Albanese] to deepen that friendship and strengthen the bond between our nations,” he tweeted.
Bennett also thanked previous Australian prime minister Scott Morrison “for being a good friend and a valuable partner.”
Morrison was very friendly to Israel, with his government recognizing western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, listing Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization and adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of Antisemitism.
Among other pro-Israel figures voted out of office were MP Dave Sharma, former ambassador to Israel; Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s first Jewish treasurer; and Eric Abetz, chairman of the Australia-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group.
The Australian Jewish Association stated that “many in the Jewish community will be upset with the results of the recent election.”
“Some of the people elected are on record as making extreme anti-Israel comments, including the new prime minister,” the AJA stated. “Some of the new members may have crossed the line into antisemitism, and the fact that this doesn’t seem to have affected their vote is concerning.”
The AJA said it plans to fight against recognition of a Palestinian state, as well as a possible change in voting patterns at the UN and foreign aid for “problematic UN and Arab Palestinian organizations,” among other potential challenges to the new government.
At the same time, the AJA said it is “committed to working with reasonable voices in the Labor Party in order to protect the interests of our members, the Jewish community and Israel.”
The AJA also noted with concern the growth in support for the Greens, Australia’s only political party to have rejected the IHRA definition of antisemitism.
Arsen Ostrovsky, an Israeli-Australian commentator on Middle East affairs, said the Morrison government set the “gold standard for support of Israel.”
“Israel truly could not have asked for a better friend or ally, who understood the geo-strategic position the Jewish state found itself in and the shared values and history that bind the two nations,” he said.
Ostrovsky expressed concern that the bipartisan support Israel enjoyed in Australia for many years might be in decline.
“The Australian Labor Party is not Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party [in the UK], and whilst there is solid support for Israel at the top level, there will likely be considerable pressure to water this down in the rank and file,” Ostrovsky stated. “I expect you will begin to see more abstentions at the UN and pressure on Israel to make further concessions.”
Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said, “Labor has always been a great friend of the Australian Jewish community and an integral part of the bipartisan consensus on Israel. Mr. Albanese is committed to the Australia-Israel relationship, and to a negotiated, peaceful and democratic two-state outcome to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. These are priorities shared by the Australian Jewish community, and we look forward to working closely with Mr. Albanese and his government.”