Staunch Israel Supporter Tony Abbott Wins Australia Premiership
Australia’s Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott, a staunch supporter of Israel, was elected the country’s new prime minister.
The Labor government was swept from its six-year term in office on Saturday as the conservative Liberal Party won a convincing, and expected, victory.
Abbott – a surf life-saver, volunteer fire-fighter and one-time trainee Catholic priest – is expected to lead a government of more than 90 seats against Labor’s expected 55 seats in the new parliament.
Several of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives are yet to be confirmed.
Israel has experienced turbulent diplomatic relations with Australia under Kevin Rudd, including the expulsion of an Israeli agent from its embassy in Canberra following the 2010 Dubai passports affair.
Rudd stood down from the party leadership on conceding defeat late Saturday.
All three Jewish lawmakers in federal parliament were returned to the government, with Joshua Frydenberg becoming the first Liberal Jewish Member of Parliament since Peter Baume in the early 1980s.
Labor’s Michael Danby and Mark Dreyfus – both of whom served in the cabinet of the Rudd government – will return as opposition members.
Labor’s Mike Kelly, who is married to a cousin of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is in a battle to hold on to his seat, with the result still too close to call.
Abbott has said he wants to return bilateral relations to the era of former Liberal leader John Howard, who was an unashamed and unapologetic supporter of Israel.
“I’d like to think that nowhere in the world [does Israel] have a stauncher friend than us,” Abbott told an Australia-Israel forum in Melbourne when he was first elected party leader in 2009.
The election was previously scheduled to clash with Yom Kippur but was brought forward one week when Rudd was reinstated leader six weeks ago in a last-ditch move by Labor to try and avoid the electoral wipeout predicted under Julia Gillard.