Australia, one of Israel’s staunchest supporters, now has a deputy prime minister who is a founding member of the Parliamentary Friends of Palestine group, a sign of shifting political sands that may change the country’s attitudes towards the Jewish state.
Anthony Albanese, a longstanding member of the left faction of the Labor Party, was sworn in by Australia’s Governor-General Quentin Bryce Monday as part of Kevin Rudd’s new cabinet. Albanese describes himself as “a strong advocate of justice for Palestinians” but also has been at the forefront of the fight against those promoting a boycott of Israeli goods, blasting the campaign as “clumsy and counterproductive.”
Rudd was parachuted into power last week for his second stint as prime minister after Julia Gillard called a leadership ballot amid plunging polls and rising support for Rudd. He served as prime minister from 2007 to 2010 and said the day after he was re-elected that he doubted he would stick to the federal election date selected by Gillard of September 14, which is Yom Kippur, because of the “massive inconvenience” to Australia’s 110,000-plus Jews.
Rudd’s re-election as party leader sparked a bounce in the polls, but Labor still trails the conservative Liberal Party led by Tony Abbott. The election must be held by November 30.
Michael Danby, a pro-Israel Jewish legislator inside the Labor government, said although Albanese “doesn’t have my views on the Middle East,” he does support a two-state solution.