Australia–Israel relations

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Australia–Israel relations
Map indicating locations of Israel and Australia


Diplomatic Mission
Israeli Embassy, Canberra Australian Embassy, Tel Aviv
Ambassador Shmuel Ben Ambassador Dave Sharma

Australia–Israel relations refers to bilateral relations between Australia and Israel, which were established in 1949.[1] Australia has an embassy in Tel Aviv and Israel has an embassy in Canberra. Relations between the two countries' governments have often been shaped by the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs describes Australia and Israel as having "a healthy commercial relationship with two-way trade worth $919 million [in 2013]".[2] John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia between 1996 and 2007, has stated that "[Australia's] capacity to influence events within the region is limited and should not be over-stated".[3]


Australian Light Horse Monument, Beersheba

Four Australian Light Horse brigades and a battalion of camel troops took part in the British conquest of Palestine in 1916-1917. The Australian-Jewish general John Monash was a leader of the Australian Zionist movement. Australians soldiers fought in the Middle East in World War II. The Australian foreign minister H.V. Evatt served as Chairman of the UN General Assembly's Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine and helped to push through the UN Partition Plan on November 29, 1947. Australia was the first country to vote in favour of the plan despite heavy pressure from the United Kingdom on its fellow Commonwealth nations to abstain on the resolution.[4]

Full diplomatic relations were established on 29 January 1949.[5]

The Liberal–Country Party Coalition supported Israel during and after the 1967 Six-Day War. However, the subsequent Labor government led by Gough Whitlam, elected in 1972, shifted to what was described as a more "even-handed" approach to relations. The change came after the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and was linked with Whitlam's desire to be on friendlier terms with Arab countries.[6]

The subsequent Liberal government led by Malcolm Fraser, elected in 1975, expressed "support for United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242, 338 and 339 as providing the basis for a peaceful settlement". Fraser later said that Australia should "make more plain our commitment to the survival of Israel". In 1980, Andrew Peacock, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that "peace should be based … upon Israel’s rights to exist within secure and recognised boundaries; and upon recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to a homeland alongside Israel". Peacock's statement was echoed by Fraser in 1982, who said "the legitimate rights of the Palestinians include a homeland alongside Israel".[3]

In the 1980s, Bob Hawke opposed the UN resolution equating Zionism with racism. Ties with Israel were strengthened under Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who supported Israel in the 2006 Lebanon War.[4]

In Israel, Anzac Day is commemorated at the Commonwealth War cemetery on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. The Australian Soldier Park in Beersheba is dedicated to the memory of the Australian Light Horse regiment that charged at Beersheba and defeated the Turks in World War I.[7]

A 2014 BBC World Service opinion poll found that 67% of Australians had a negative view of Israel's influence and 24% had a positive view. However, Israel was viewed less negatively than in the 2007 survey. Of the countries surveyed, only Indonesia and the UK had a greater proportion of their population view Israel negatively. No similar survey was conducted to ascertain Israeli perceptions of Australia.[8]

Monthly value (A$ millions) of Australian merchandise exports to Israel since 1988
Monthly value of Israeli merchandise exports to Australia (A$ millions) since 1988


In the early 1980s, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tony Street, expressed opposition to the Israeli Knesset's passing of the Jerusalem Law and Golan Heights Law. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser said Israel's actions were "of the gravest concern to the Australian Government and people", and were "short sighted and foolish".[3]

In May 2010, the Australian government expelled an Israeli diplomat over the use of Australian passports forged by the Israeli government which were used in the assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said that Israel had forged Australian passports previously, and while "Australia remains a firm friend of Israel ... our relationship must be conducted on the basis of mutual trust and respect".[9]

Tension rose again after the Gaza flotilla raid,[10] in which an Australian citizen was injured. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd condemned Israel's actions.[11]

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