Those who organised against the current delegation to Israel have failed. The Hebrew media is reporting the arrival of an Australian woman for a special event. Except that her name is not Julia Gillard, but Ros Tatarka. For the benefit of anyone who is not a film buff Tatarka, of Halifax f.p. fame, is the artistic director of the Australian Film Festival in Israel. The film festival has received broad coverage but, so far, Ms Gillard’s visit has received no coverage in Hebrew and one item and a news in brief mention in English.
That news item in Haaretz devoted almost as much space to comments by Peter Costello who is also attending the Australia/Israel leadership forum. The paper chose to concentrate on the platitudes as there was nothing else of substance in the speech:
“We should be honest about where we all fail to live up to our ideals,” Gillard said during a visit to Jerusalem.
“We should be honest about what each of our nations still has to learn and we should use honesty to make our exchanges and our differences more valuable and better appreciated.”
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While her hosts were far more interested in thanking her for her role as Acting Prime Minister when Australia was the only power to join the Bush Administration in backing Israel’s Gaza war to the hilt, Gillard’s own speech does deserve some scrutiny. She managed perfectly the Shalom Salam G’day greetings — it is the title of the event she is attending after all. Unfortunately her multiculturalism did not extend to say “good evening friends” in Arabic as well as Hebrew.
Those who criticise her for being one-sided need to read her speech. On the Israeli side she met President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Barak. According to the speech text that appeared to have been distributed beforehand she was due to travel to Ramallah on Thursday to meet “Prime Minister _____” and the Palestinian Authority.
No doubt the blank space would have been filled in by the time Gillard would have delivered the speech, but it is somewhat indicative that whoever wrote it, could not remember Salam Fayyad’s name. On the other hand maybe it was Gillard’s healthy pro-democracy spirit coming to the fore.
Fayyad shares Senator Fielding’s distinction of having garnered two per cent of the vote. He does not have the confidence of the Legislative Council but was merely appointed for the job.
Befitting her status as Education Minister Gillard also demonstrated that she knows her ABC: “When a vote was called in 1947 on United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, to establish separate Jewish and Arab States, the Australian delegate was the first to vote.”
Gillard would have received lower marks for her next sentence: “The first to vote in favour of Israel’s right to full independent nationhood and its right to live securely within defined borders.”
The resolution mentioned none of this — the name Israel wasn’t even chosen till May 1948.
Sol Salbe is a monitor of Hebrew media for the Middle East News Service.