DFAT alumni lash Israel

Scott Morrison speaking at Beth Weizmann Community Centre in 2018. Photo: Peter Haskin

AN open letter from a group of former diplomats urging Prime Minister Scott Morrison not to support the US Middle East peace plan betrays “a clear bias and an alarming lack of understanding” about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) says.

The letter, sent last week, claims the conflict is “grounded in Israel’s occupation and systematic denial of Palestinian human rights” and blames Israel alone for the failure of the Oslo accords.

“Israel simply has not been prepared to entertain the notion of the existence of a viable independent Palestinian state alongside Israel,” it states.

The letter calls US President Donald Trump “a partisan player, heavily committed to Israel’s continuing occupation the West Bank and all of Jerusalem” and said the relocation of the US embassy “has understandably been interpreted as a deeply hostile act”.

Signatories include two former ambassadors to Israel, other former diplomats and former Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officers.

Questioning the claim that Israel rejects the notion of a Palestinian state, ECAJ co-CEO Alex Ryvchin asked, “Why then did Israel make three comprehensive offers of Palestinian statehood in the 15 years following Oslo, only for these offers to be violently rebuffed?”

“The reality is that peacemaking of the sort advocated in the letter, which is based on extracting upfront concessions from Israel is the hope of getting the Palestinians to deal fairly in negotiations, has been an abject failure,” he continued, noting that the Trump plan “sought an alternative path”.

“It was predictable the Palestinian leadership would boycott a worthwhile endeavour,” he said. “But it is exceedingly disappointing that the group of individuals who signed this letter should reject it as well. They should know better.”

Meanwhile, Ryvchin’s fellow co-CEO Peter Wertheim has commended Morrison’s stance that saying the existing nuclear deal with Iran “is better than anything else that is out there” was not “an endorsement of it being a wonderful agreement”.

“There is a clear objective here from the United States which we would support and that is to get them back to the table, to get a tighter set of controls and conditions in place,” Morrison told reporters in Tokyo.

Wertheim noted Iran’s quest for hegemony regionally and beyond, its attempts to spread its theocratic, totalitarian ideology and its use of “brutal repression domestically, and military force, terrorism and espionage externally”.

“Both international and autonomous sanctions against Iran will need to be tightened. Iran cannot be treated as a normal state under its present form of government,” he said.

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein welcomed “Australia’s repositioning on Iran and its justified and timely support for the United States as it attempts to bring Iran back to the negotiating table”.

“The current Iran nuclear deal is deeply flawed, has far from stopped Iran’s nuclear activities and has resulted in enhancing Iran’s continuing destabilisation of the region,” Rubenstein said.

“This week, predictably, an Iranian official once again confirmed that destroying Israel remains a primary objective for the Ayatollahs.”