National Security

Labor 'guilty of outrageous abandonment' over Israel

July 5, 2024

Friday 05 July 2024
Ben Packham
The Australian

 The Albanese government has warned Israel not to escalate its conflict with  Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants in Lebanon as the terrorist group  continues to rain down missiles on the Jewish state.
 In a move condemned by the Coalition as "outrageous", Israeli  ambassador Amir Maimon was hauled in by Assistant Foreign Minister Tim Watts  about a fortnight ago for a dressing down over his country's military  operations against Hamas and Hezbollah.
 The extraordinary diplomatic step, first reported by the Herald Sun, comes  amid preparations by Israel for a war with Hezbollah, whose missile attacks  on northern Israel have forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of  civilians.
 "In that meeting, there was an expression about our concern in seeing  the conflict in the Middle East escalate and particularly escalate in respect  of Lebanon," Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said. "That  position was put very clearly by the Assistant Minister Watts."
 He said the move was driven by the government's hopes for peace and its  concern for about 20,000 Australians currently in Lebanon.
 Confirmation of the meeting came as Israel killed a top Hezbollah commander  following almost nine months of missile attacks by the terrorist group on  Israel.
 Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham said telling Israel not  to defend itself was an "outrageous abandonment of a democratic friend  and partner"."Hezbollah is a listed terrorist organisation in  Australia which repeatedly ignores previous undertakings by indiscriminately  firing rockets aiming to kill Israelis and displacing thousands from their  homes," he said. "We do not wish to see any spreading of the  current war in Gaza but the pressure needs to be on Hezbollah to stop their  attacks while maintaining support for Israel's inherent right to self  defence."
 Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she instructed Mr Watts to call in Israel's  envoy, but declared "we do not leak private conversations".  "Our message is the same wherever we go, with everyone, and everyone we  talk to: ceasefire, protection of civilians, return of hostages, diplomatic  solution," she said. "Since the conflict began, we have called for  restraint from all parties."
 Mr Maimon was unavailable for comment.
 Opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson said the Albanese government  should reflect on the UN's ruling in 2006 that the country's southern border  region should be demilitarised. "It is anything but," Senator  Paterson said. "It is exactly where Hezbollah is operating from and  launching these attacks against Israel."
 Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said he was  surprised by Mr Watt's message to Mr Maimon, given Hezbollah was "a  proscribed terrorist organisation, clearly the aggressor in this situation,  and has caused the internal displacement of 60,000 Israelis due to its  illegal attacks and threats of invasion".
 "The US has said it will back Israel for these very reasons," Mr  Leibler said. "We would expect all Western governments to place real  pressure on Iran and Hezbollah, and this includes by fully backing Israel's  right to defend its people and its sovereignty."
 Israel killed Hezbollah commander Mohammed Nimah Nasser in an airstrike on  Wednesday in its latest targeted attack on the terrorist group's senior  leadership.
 The Israeli military said Nasser commanded a key Hezbollah rocket unit  responsible for a "large number of terror attacks". His killing  prompted a barrage of 100 rockets into northern Israel, sparking fires but no  reported injuries. Israel has been preparing a phased pullout from Gaza to  prepare for war with Hezbollah, which officials have warned could be a much  more devastating conflict than that with Hamas.

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