Tony Abbott, new Australian premier, a staunch Israel backer

Tony Abbott, elected prime minister of Australia on Sept. 7, is a staunch supporter of Israel.

Abbott’s conservative Liberal Party won a convincing and expected victory, sweeping the Labor government from its six-year term leading the government. The Liberals are expected to have more than 90 seats in the new parliament to 55 for Labor.

Abbott is a Rhodes scholar, volunteer lifeguard and firefighter who once trained to be a Catholic priest. But the Los Angeles Times also described him as “gaffe-prone,” reporting that he praised a fellow candidate for her “sex appeal,” called abortion “a question of the mother’s convenience” and dismissed climate change as “absolute crap.”

Under outgoing Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd, Israel has experienced turbulent diplomatic relations with Australia, including the expulsion of an Israeli agent from its embassy in Canberra following the 2010 Dubai passports affair.

Abbott has said he wants to return bilateral relations to the era of former Liberal leader John Howard, who was an unapologetic supporter of Israel. — jta