PM Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to Singapore's Jewish community before leaving to Australia.
(photo credit: CHAIM ZACH / GPO)
SYDNEY – Israel’s pivot to Asia is economic, not political, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday en route from Singapore to Australia on the second leg of a week long trip to the two countries.
This comment, made to journalists on his plane, clarified a statement Netanyahu made the night before at a dinner hosted by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, when Netanyahu – announcing that he would travel to China next month, and host India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the summer – said it was all part of a “very clear and purposeful” pivot toward Asia.
But the pivot was in looking for more and wider markets, not a diplomatic one, for which Netanyahu said there was no replacement for the United States.
The prime minister said that Australia has a trillion dollar market, and that currently Israel – which did $1.1 billion of trade with the country last year – is only scratching the surface.
Finding more markets is essential for Israel’s economic growth, Netanyahu said, adding that Australia is poised to be one of the world’s largest arms purchasers in the coming years, embarking on a plan to spend $25b. to dramatically upgrade its military because of regional concerns.
Just as Poland’s wariness of Russia a few years ago set that country off on an arms purchasing spree that Israel, among other countries, benefited from, so too Australia is set to do the same thing now, he said.
In addition, Israel hopes to be closely involved in the country’s intensified efforts to provide cyber security for its vital industries.