THE Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has sought to placate an angry Jewish lobby with strong words of support in Parliament for Israel after Australia backed Palestine at the United Nations.
Ms Gillard's leadership is bruised but intact after she was forced to abandon her support for Israel to avoid being rolled by her own caucus.
Senior colleagues acknowledged that had Ms Gillard not backed down on the issue, it could have spelt the end of her leadership.
''This has weakened her leadership but had she lost [in caucus] it would have been worse,'' said one senior source.
Another said: ''She could have got it through the caucus but it would have come at a cost.''
At the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, Australia will abstain from a vote on a resolution to give Palestine observer status at the UN.
Ms Gillard had wanted Australia to join the United States, Israel, Canada and a handful of smaller nations in voting no but faced stiff resistance led by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bob Carr, and supported by MPs from the Left and Right factions, most notably the usually pro-Israel NSW Right.
During a heated cabinet meeting on Monday night, only two ministers backed Ms Gillard while 10 argued for a abstention or a yes vote.
Ms Gillard insisted on a no vote and cabinet had no choice but to back her. But she was warned subsequently by factional bosses the Right would not be supporting her in the caucus on Tuesday morning when MPs were set to vote on a motion to back Palestine.
Behind the scenes, the former prime minister Bob Hawke and the former foreign minister Gareth Evans were agitating among the backbench against Ms Gillard's position.
Ms Gillard agreed to an abstention just before caucus met, avoiding a defeat.
The push against her straddled the divide between Gillard supporters and Kevin Rudd supporters. There was a general frustration in the ALP that Ms Gillard took so long to cede to the majority view.
One factor driving the NSW Right was Labor's poor stock in western Sydney, where MPs and ministers are being lobbied by voters with a Middle-Eastern background.
But while this was a factor in the revolt, it was not the the only one.
The Israeli embassy and the Jewish lobby are angry at the decision and members of the lobby are seeking a meeting with the Prime Minister.
In Parliament, Ms Gillard said the decision to abstain was not a reflection on Australia's support for Israel and a two-state solution in the Middle East.
She said, ''we all want to wake up in a world where Israel can live behind secure borders'' and where Israelis no longer had to fear random rocket attacks.
The US Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey Bleich, said the decision would not effect Australia's strong relationship with Washington.
Senator Carr defended Ms Gillard, saying it was not about her leadership.
Senator Carr is a founder of the group, Labor friends of Israel. One of his colleagues said Senator Carr believes that ''as a friend of Israel, at times you've got to save it from itself''.
The story Gillard reassures Israel of backing despite UN vote first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.