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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Former Australian Defence Force chief Mark Binskin has been given a very wide brief by the Albanese government in his role as its adviser on Israel’s response to the killing of seven aid workers.

Among the victims, from the aid group World Central Kitchen, was Australian Zomi Frankcom. Others were three British citizens, one from Poland, a joint US-Canadian citizen and a Palestinian driver.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Binskin would “engage with Israel and the Israel Defense Forces on the response to the attack.

“Australia has made clear to the Israeli Government our expectation and trust that this engagement will be facilitated.”

Air Chief Marshal Binskin was Chief of the Australian Defence Force between 2014 and 2018.

Binskin’s brief covers examination of:

  • arrangements for the investigation of the incident

  • Israeli Defense Force policies and procedures for operational incidents

  • measures taken to hold those responsible to account

  • if further investigation is warranted

  • measures adopted to prevent such incidents happening again.

The government has a clear eye to the importance of the message it is sending domestically by its stand. It has been under criticism from some quarters for months for not reacting more strongly to the many thousands of civilians being killed in Gaza. The aid workers’ deaths has been a tipping point for a step up.

“The Special Adviser will provide advice to the Australian Government regarding any further representations or actions that could be taken to ensure a full and transparent investigation and to hold those responsible to account,” Wong said.

The Australian government had made it clear “we expect full accountability for these deaths”.

She said Binskin’s appointment would ensure Frankcom’s family and the Australian public “can have confidence in this process.”

But the Binskin mission is not without its complications. One will be whether he can obtain adequate access to material from the Israeli forces. Some of this information, presumably, might not normally be available to a foreign government.

Another potential issue is what the Australian government would do if Binskin’s findings were critical of the Israeli inquiry or other actions. Options would include the government toughening its diplomatic representations, or calling for an international inquiry.

Opposition spokesman on national security James Paterson said Binkin’s appointment was “a sensible appointment to be made.

“It is very important we get to the bottom of exactly how Zomi Frankcom was killed. She should not have been killed, and it is important that Israel takes responsibility for this, as they already have, by launching their own investigation and dismissing some of the soldiers involved.”

But Paterson accused the Albanese government of “a double standard”, by its less robust response when an Australian, Galit Carbone, was killed by Hamas on October 7.

“The Albanese government’s response to her death was not anywhere near as strong as it’s been to Zomi Frankcom’s death. […] I think a double standard has been introduced here.”

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement late last week that an investigation had found its forces wrongly thought one of the three World Central Kitchen vehicles was carrying a gunman.

“The investigation’s findings indicate that the incident should not have occurred. Those who approved the strike were convinced that they were targeting armed Hamas operatives and not World Central Kitchen employees.

“The strike on the aid vehicles is a grave mistake stemming from a serious failure due to a mistaken identification, errors in decision-making, and an attack contrary to the Standard Operating Procedures,” the statement said.

Two of those responsible were dismissed from their positions, and other officers were reprimanded.

It is not clear whether Binskin will travel to Israel or be able to obtain the information he needs in Australia.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

ref. Government gives its special adviser on aid workers’ deaths a wide brief –