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Paul Bongiorno: Australia on collision course with Israel after Zomi Frankcom’s death changes everything

The 'tragic mistake' explanation does not wash with the prime minister in light of the determined three strike effort to kill everybody in the convoy.

The 'tragic mistake' explanation does not wash with the prime minister in light of the determined three strike effort to kill everybody in the convoy. Photo: TND/Getty

Anthony Albanese and his senior ministers are convinced the killing of Australian aid worker Zomi Frankcom and six of her colleagues in Gaza is a pivotal moment in Australia and the international community’s support for Israel.

What is at stake is not Australia’s historic recognition of Israel and its right to exist within secure borders, albeit with the rider that this should be a peaceful coexistence with a Palestinian state, but rather how our relations will play out in light of the Gaza conflict.

The appointment of former Australian Defence Force chief Mark Binskin as a Special Adviser to the Australian Government on Israel’s response to the aid workers’ deaths could not be a clearer statement of distrust.

Anthony Albanese put it bluntly on Monday, he said “we don’t find the explanations to be satisfactory to this point especially in light of the World Central Kitchen charity playing by Israel’s rules to ensure its staff’s safety”.

The “tragic mistake” explanation does not wash with the prime minister in light of the determined three strike effort to kill everybody in the convoy.

The Israeli Defence Force believed two Hamas gunmen were hiding in the convoy even though all the passengers had been vetted by the IDF itself.

The prime minister’s sceptical views are far from lonely among the Jewish state’s longstanding allies.

In a confluence of tragic circumstances, the victims of the precision airstrikes on a humanitarian convoy in defiance of international law were citizens of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Poland as well as Australia.

All have expressed their condemnation of the way the Netanyahu government and its military have reacted over the past six months to Hamas’ murderous October 7 attack on 1200 Israeli men women and children and the taking of 240 hostages.

The sheer ruthless brutality of that terrorist offensive, as The Wall Street Journal noted in a recent commentary “might have brought it the world’s sympathy, Israel is today closer to being a global pariah than ever before.”

Binskin’s riding orders are to examine Israel’s investigation, the IDF’s policies and procedures for operational incidents with a view to advising if further probing is needed.

The Australian government wants to know what measures will be taken to hold those responsible to account other than merely standing some aside.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton accuses Albanese of giving Binskin a “mission impossible” and of using the distinguished retired Air Chief Marshal as a political pawn to pander to the left wing of the Labor caucus.

This is a breathtaking insult to Binskin who would not have accepted the role if he saw it in these crude partisan terms.

Albanese is confident Israel will co-operate because it is in “its interests as well for there to be transparency around these incidents. They have shaken the world.”

The prime minister said the countries of the seven victims have all expressed their anger at what has occurred.

But it seems the Opposition has missed this pivotal moment in the erosion of Israel’s credibility especially with Washington and London. It is no petty internal squabble in the Australian Labor Party’s federal caucus.

It is the culmination of months of images of starving and dead Palestinians being projected across the world – even Donald Trump says it is a public relations disaster.

Albanese is surely on firm ground when he says Australians would expect no less of their government demanding accountability for the killing of one of their own who was a hero on a lifesaving mission.

On Sunday, Dutton’s foreign affairs spokesman, Simon Birmingham, accused critics of Israel of a false equivalence between Israel and Hamas.

The mounting civilian death toll he said was due to the fact that the terrorist organisation had embedded itself in the civilian community using hospitals, ambulances and even aid workers as human shields.

Birmingham has something of a point except the sheer scale of the Palestinian death toll has drawn a caution from the International Criminal Court, and Israel unlike Hamas prides itself on being a democratic state bound by the rule of law.

Albanese has raised the stakes for himself and the government if Binskin’s report finds Israel has responded inadequately to what appears to be a clear war crime.

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