Australian FM Goes to Bat for Israel

YERUSHALAYIM -

Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop says that the international community should put aside its criticism of Israel’s building policy in Yehudah and Shomron and denounced the anti-Israel boycott as anti-Semitic, in an exclusive interview with The Times of Israel on Thursday.

Bishop said that the popular argument that the Israeli communities over the Green Line are illegal under international law is questionable. “I would like to see which international law has declared them illegal,” she said.

But she views it as a pragmatic as well as legal issue: “I don’t want to prejudge the fundamental issues in the peace negotiations,” Bishop said. “The issue is absolutely and utterly fundamental to the negotiations that are under way and I think it’s appropriate that we give those negotiations every chance of succeeding.”

Since September, when the center-right Liberal Party of Prime Minister Tony Abbott came to power in Canberra, Australia has been shifting toward a position more supportive of Israel. While under her predecessor, Bob Carr, Canberra often supported anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N. General Assembly, she has had Australia oppose or abstain from several such measures.

Bishop takes a tough stance against the boycott campaign.

“Israel has to be ever-vigilant against such tendencies on the part of the international community,” the foreign minister said. While private organizations were free to boycott whomever they wanted, any Australian body that received state funding should be barred from calling for boycotts, she added.

Regarding the global anti-Israel BDS movement, she declared: “It’s anti-Semitic. It identifies Israel out of all other nations as being worthy of a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign? Hypocritical beyond belief.”

During the interview, Bishop also denied that the so-called “Prisoner X” affair surrounding Ben Zygier, a Melbourne-born Mossad operative who killed himself in an Israeli high-security prison cell in 2010, led to strained bilateral relations.

“I don’t believe that it caused diplomatic tensions between Australia and Israel — far from it,” she said.

However, Bishop, who at the time demanded an explanation from the Israeli government, said she never received an answer, and doesn’t expect one.