The Age – April 11, 2014
Bob Carr’s interviews on Wednesday on the ABC’s 7.30 and Lateline, spruiking the publication of his The Diary of a Foreign Minister, make various claims about what he refers to as the Melbourne “Israel lobby” exercising extraordinary influence over the office of prime minister Julia Gillard.
Referring to a meeting in April 2013, Carr says that I adopted a “how-dare-you” tone. For a former foreign minister to characterise a normal, cordial and frank exchange as potentially intimidatory is not only inaccurate but a little bizarre.
Strangely enough, he said nothing at the time or in the following months that would indicate that I had earned his displeasure. Perhaps Carr has a problem with anyone disagreeing with him: Such extraordinary thin skin has Carr. Such a delicate disposition from a man who sees himself as an energetic “gladiator” and describes himself as the “best chairman” he knows, is surprising.
Carr has now publicly criticised the approach of what he calls the “Israel lobby” in its dealings with government. At the breakfast that followed my April 2013 meeting with Carr, where I hosted more than 40 Jewish community leaders, Carr openly praised the manner and tone in which views were exchanged and described them as a model of effective engagement with government.
Carr now claims he was frustrated that he couldn’t express his concern about Israeli settlements. Nevertheless, he managed to do so at every opportunity, loudly and clearly. What he is really upset about is that his view did not always prevail. The person he needed to convince was the prime minister. Much to his chagrin, the prime minister exercised independent judgment in relation to this as well as all other issues.
Were anyone to claim that Carr’s excessive emphasis on settlements was due to anything other than his own independent judgment, he would be outraged, and rightly so. He would say, no doubt, that he is more than capable of making up his own mind. On what basis does he presume that the then prime minister had less capacity to exercise similar judgment?
Carr’s claim that Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council and the Jewish community take an extreme right-wing view on Israel is disingenuous. Carr knows that there are quite a range of different views in Israel and within the Australian Jewish community in relation to settlements. The vast majority of the Jewish community, including the AIJAC, support a negotiated two-state solution, as does Carr.
This is the position that has been shared by all Australian governments since the 1993 Oslo Accords. It has also been the position of all US and European Union governments. Thus Carr would also categorise all successive Australian, US and European Union governments over the past 21 years as “extreme right-wing”.
What makes Carr the odd one out is his obsessive focus on settlements to the exclusion of everything else – settlements as the sole obstacle to peace. On this point, he is wrong and we make no apologies for saying so. The real obstacles to peace include the ongoing incitement to hatred of Israel, and the Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as a reality in the Middle East.
Carr, attending Holocaust remembrance commemorations and naming Primo Levi’s book as the most important book of the past 100 years does not make you a supporter of Israel or the Jewish people. It makes you a human being.
Bob Carr is a very human, human being.
Bob Carr is not a bigot.
Bob Carr is not an anti-Semite.
Bob Carr is a prime minister that never was, making the best of a lost opportunity.
No doubt he will sell books.
Mark Leibler is National Chairman of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.