Julia Gillard was elected prime minister last Thursday following a campaign to discuss her predecessor, Kevin Rudd. The witty politician managed to convince her fellow members at the ruling Labor Party that Rudd would lead them to a defeat in the upcoming elections and should be replaced.
On Monday she was caught in her first political storm as prime minister following a letter written by Ross Burns, who served as Australia's ambassador to Israel between 2001 and 2003.
In a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, Burns said Gillard has been ''remarkably taciturn on the excesses of Israeli actions in the past two years''.
The former diplomat hinted that Gillard's stand stemmed from her relations with Jewish Melbourne property developer Albert Dadon, who employs Gillard's partner Tim Mathieson and has been active in advancing Australia's ties with Israel.
'Right to live his life.' Gillard and Mathieson (Photo: Getty Images Bank)
According to the Herald, Gillard has been part of the Australian delegation to the last two meetings of the Australia Israel Leadership Forum, founded by Dadon.
Burns slammed Gillard for refusing to condemn Israel during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and criticizing Hamas for firing rockets into Israel, while former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd expressed unease at the blockade of Gaza by Israel.
''It looks a bit funny when you go on this tour to promote bilateral relations, but you don't seem to have any reservations about the issue that was number one on the horizon,'' Burns said.
Burns was joined by another former Australian ambassador to Tel Aviv, Peter Rodgers, who said that under successive governments, Australia's approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had become increasingly unbalanced, and that this was unlikely to change under Gillard's stewardship.
''There's been a marked swing away from the old attempt to be even-handed on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to a much more determined pro-Israeli position, and I think Gillard is part of that,'' Rodgers said.
The new prime minister rejected the criticism, clarifying that her stand towards Israel was impartial. She noted that her public condemnation of Hamas in January 2009 was well before there had been any suggestion of Mathieson working for Dadon.
Gillard also defended her partner's right to work for the Ubertas company, stressing that Mathieson's work was his private business.
“Kevin (Rudd) was the first prime minister, as I understand it, to have a partner with her own career, and a formidable and successful career it is," she said, adding that she hoped people would understand that her partner "has got a right to live his life too."