Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Week - Foreign advice; A word to the wise; and SMH's headlining act

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Foreign advice

Former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans was quick out of the blocks to suggest Kevin Rudd's successor should still make the case for Australia winning a temporary UN Security Council seat in 2013/14.

"It will certainly be almost impossible if we paint ourselves into a tiny minority corner on the Palestinian statehood issue, should that come to a vote in the General Assembly before October," Evans wrote (Age, 1/3).

However, last October, Australia, the United States, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Palau, Panama, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sweden, and Vanuatu all voted against admitting the non-existent state of Palestine to UNESCO as a full member state. A further 52 countries abstained from voting. Australia was, therefore, hardly in a minority in what was seen as an important vote on Palestinian statehood. At the very least, Australia displayed courage and principle to vote no when the easy option might have been to abstain or vote yes.  

A word to the wise

According to Professor David Weisbrot in the Australian (1/3) "In recent years, the Republican congressional leadership has cultivated a closer relationship with conservative counterparts in Israel, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. This has complicated Obama's efforts to persuade Israel to compromise on such issues as Jewish settlements in the occupied territories and breathe life into the flagging peace process".

Or perhaps President Obama finally realised making the resumption of negotiations conditional upon a total settlement building freeze forced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to insist on a demand he had not previously requested. As it was, an unprecedented 10-month settlements building freeze in 2010 by Netanyahu netted no reciprocity from Abbas, except to see even more preconditions asserted to restart talks.

SMH's headlining act

An article by Ruth Pollard on US analysts who don't think Iran is after a nuclear weapon received very different headlines in Fairfax's sister papers - the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) and Age (27/2).

Pollard's story appeared to have been prompted by a New York Times story published on February 24. It was clear in that article, unlike Pollard's, that the intelligence was not saying the program was civilian but that they were pursuing nuclear weapons capability without having made the final decision to build bombs, at least for the moment.

However the SMH headlined the piece, "Calls for calm as Iran nuclear risk discounted" and tacked on a preamble that, "As Tehran heads for elections, intelligence backs its denials that it is preparing a nuclear bomb".

Between January 13 and February 20, no fewer than four SMH editorials covered the Iranian nuclear issue. Generally, these editorials portrayed concerns about the Iranian nuclear program as chiefly a conflict between Iran and Israel - a clash that risks sliding into a war which the West should not encourage because both countries are bellicose and recklessly provoking the other.

In contrast, the Age headlined the story with the less bombastic "Sanctions buy diplomatic time in Iran standoff" and a shorter preamble that "Tehran's leaders ‘are not suicidal'".

- Allon Lee

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