Ambassador booted for racist comments

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 |  by Staff Writer
Israeli ambassador to Australia Nati Tamir will have to hand in his embassy keys earlier than expected after Foreign Ministry officials decided no cut his term short because of racist comments attributed to him in an interview a few weeks ago.

The decision was made by Director General of the Foreign Ministry Aaron Abramowitz after an internal investigation into the quotes attributed to him during an interview with the Haaretz newspaper. His term will end in the coming summer, effectively cutting his term short by two years.

Tamir was quoted then saying that ""Israel and Australia are like sisters in Asia. We are in Asia without the characteristics of Asians. We don't have yellow skin and slanted eyes. Asia is basically the yellow race. Australia and Israel are not - we are basically the white race."

These comments caused an uproar in Australia and in Asia as a whole. The Foreign Ministry was quick to condemn the comments saying they were “grave and unacceptable and we will not pass over this in silence."

Three weeks ago, Tamir was summoned back to Israel for two week for consultations where he met with officials in the Foreign Ministry. Tamir had denied making the statements attributed to him.

At first, the Foreign Ministry contemplated firing the ambassador immediately and ordering him to stay in Israel and not return to Canberra. However, the ministry was afraid that such a move without concrete evidence that he actually made these statements could end with a lawsuit against them. Because the ambassador continued to deny the allegations, a compromise was reached, sending him back to Australia, but cutting his mission two years short of its intended time.

In the coming weeks the Foreign Ministry will publish a tender for the job for another ambassador to replace Tamir this summer.

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