No proof of Kylie Moore-Gilbert ties to Israel, ex-Aussie defense minister says

Minister suggests Israel, other like-minded countries, increase cooperation with Five Eyes.

Dr. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, the British-Australian academic who has been released from behind bars in Iran (photo credit: AAP IMAGE/SUPPLIED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE VIA REUTERS)
Dr. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, the British-Australian academic who has been released from behind bars in Iran
There is no indication Kylie Moore-Gilbert, the Australian-British academic recently released after two years in an Iranian prison, had connections to Israel, Australian former defense minister Christopher Pyne said on Wednesday.
“I don’t believe there is any evidence of her having any links to Israel,” said Pyne, who was defense minister when Moore-Gilbert was imprisoned on espionage charges in 2018.
Pyne’s remarks come several days after Iranian state-run TV accused Moore-Gilbert, 33, of being a Mossad spy working with a Bahraini MP. The televised segment, as part of a misinformation campaign to justify keeping her in custody for over 800 days, showed photos the program claimed were of Moore-Gilbert in Jerusalem and an IDF training camp in Haifa, as well as an Israeli passport purportedly belonging to her husband.
Moore-Gilbert had been sentenced to 10 years in prison, but was allowed to return to Australia in late November, in exchange for three Iranians who had been in Thai prisons due to their involvement in the 2012 Bangkok bombings targeting Israeli diplomats.
Albert Dadon and Christopher Pyne at the 2019 Leadership DialogueAlbert Dadon and Christopher Pyne at the 2019 Leadership Dialogue
Pyne said “we’re very pleased and have done a lot of work behind the scenes to get her out of Iran and out of prison.”
“There is no evidence [she] is guilty of any crimes and certainly Australia rejected the espionage charges against her,” Pyne added. “We believe that her capture and charges were not genuine and should never have been allowed to happen.”
Moore-Gilbert’s only “very tangential link” to Israel, Pyne added, was that one of her greatest champions in the Australian parliament is MP Dave Sharma, who used to be Canberra’s ambassador to Israel.
“Certainly, it is not an offense to have friends,” he said.
Pyne spoke to The Jerusalem Post as the International Institute for Strategic Leadership Dialogue held its 12th Leadership Dialogue event. The annual conference, founded by Israeli-Australian businessman and philanthropist Albert Dadon, is meant to foster closer ties between Israel, Australia and the UK. This year’s dialogue involved participants from the United Arab Emirates and the US as well.
One of the panels in the Leadership Dialogue is titled “Israel 6th Eye,” making the case that Israel should join the Five Eyes intelligence alliance between the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Pyne said this discussion has gone on for many years.
“Whether it’s joining the Five Eyes or a Five Eyes-plus with a number of other like-minded countries hasn’t been determined,” he said. “Israel might join countries like Singapore and Japan…in a different grouping that has a deeper engagement than the Five Eyes do with some other countries.”
The idea is “worth discussing and underlines the strength and depth of the relationship that Australia and the UK feel they have with Israel,” Pyne added.
During the panel, Pyne explained that Israel would have to resolve its major differences with the Five Eyes on foreign and defense policy.
“Israel had a different approach to Russia than the Five Eyes…Russia is deeply embedded in the Middle East,” Pyne said.
In addition, he said, “Israel doesn’t think about China the way Australia thinks about China. Israel would have to be rethinking that, beyond the economic relationship.”
And Israel must realize that “the Five Eyes is an intelligence gathering and sharing organization... That level of a relationship means you can’t go backwards. You can’t leave the Five Eyes.”
Pyne is also the chairman of the Australia-United Arab Emirates business council, and enthusiastically supported the Abraham Accords, Israel’s diplomatic relations with the UAE and Bahrain.
“This is a tremendous and astonishing step forward for Israel…and I look forward to them doing so with other Arab nations,” he said.
The former defense minister called on the Palestinians to recognize the accords “as a hinge moment for them to re-engage meaningfully in the peace process...The Palestinians can see their former allies and supporters saying it’s time to talk ...This is an opportunity for them.”
AUSTRALIA IS not a party to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 Iran Deal, but holds a position similar to Europe, that “the JCPOA is better than no deal at all,” though “there should be greater oversight of the Iranian [nuclear] program,” Pyne said.
Still, Pyne said he understood why the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which “face an existential threat not dissimilar to Israel,” consider Iran’s nuclear ambitions their top priority. They should have an influence on the expected new negotiations, if the US rejoins the JCPOA under US President-elect Joe Biden.
Pyne said he was glad it would soon be easier to find flights between Israel and Australia, now that Dubai is a possible stopover. “When international travel starts to normalize over the next two years…there will be heightened interest in two-way travel between Israel and Australia,” he said.
Pyne also commented on the current tensions between Australia and China.
Australia relies heavily on trade from China, which has placed tariffs on Australian imports and listed 13 grievances against Canberra. Last week, a Chinese government spokesperson tweeted a doctored photo of an Australian soldier holding a knife to an Afghan child’s throat, driving Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to demand an apology.
Much analysis of their tensions has focused on Australia being the first country to demand  an investigation into the origins of COVID-19, first detected in Wuhan, China.
Pyne, however, said there was no controversy there as China voted in favor of investigating the origins of the coronavirus in the UN, just like Australia.
Pyne thinks that China is most upset that Australia in 2018, banned companies with links to the Chinese government, such as Huawei, from being involved in its telecommunications infrastructure.
“It was the right decision, but obviously had the impact of seriously annoying China.”
Pyne also said “China is trying to squeeze Australia because of our close relationship with the US and values-based foreign and defense policy...We have ups and downs with the China-Australia relationship,” he said. “We have come through before and will come through this as well.”