Australia's foreign minister Julie Bishop (L) shakes hands with Israel's President Reuven Rivlin during their meeting at the president's residence in Jerusalem September 4, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
President Reuven Rivlin apologized to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop when she called on him at his official residence on Sunday.
Rivlin was scheduled to pay a state visit to Australia in March, but postponed it indefinitely due to an urgent need to go to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin.
Coincidentally, despite Australia’s long and close friendship with Israel, Bishop in March rejected a call from Liberal senator James Paterson to relocate the Australian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
He said he would be happy to visit Australia soon, but did not specify a date. Rivlin previously visited the Lucky Country when he was speaker of the Knesset.
In welcoming his guest, Rivlin assured her of the importance that Israel attaches to its friendship with Australia, saying that Israel can never forget what Australian soldiers did in 1917 that enabled the return of the Jewish people to their homeland.
He was referring to the Battle of Beersheba in which the Australian Light Horse Regiment, which was allied with the British Army, defeated the Ottoman forces, thereby paving the way for the Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1917.
Bishop replied that Australia was very much looking forward to next year’s centenary commemoration of the battle, which she described as being “very special in Australian military history.”
The Israeli commemoration will in all probability be attended by the Australian governor general.
Rivlin said that he was looking forward to the arrival of an Australian military attaché because of the close cooperation that Israel and Australia have in areas of hi-tech and fighting the terrorism which is threatening the free world.
Bishop said that she was happy to be in Israel so soon after the Australian election, and pledged that Australia’s friendship with Israel will be nurtured and will continue to flourish.
Referring to Australia’s Jewish community, which she said numbered around 120,000, Bishop lauded the Jewish contribution to Australian society.
She met with Rivlin after having been to Yad Vashem earlier in the day, where she renewed Australia’s pledge that the brutality of the Holocaust would not be allowed to occur again.
She told Rivlin that Australia will continue to take a pro-Israel stand at international forums when there are unfair resolutions and statements.
She was pleased at the cooperation between the two countries in areas of innovation and said that each country has much to learn from the other.
Sources in the President’s Office confirmed that Rivlin and Bishop also discussed the Iranian issue, the spread of terrorism and the possible renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Australia has consistently endorsed the two-state solution to the conflict.
Much to the consternation and anger of the Australian Jewish community, Australia, which has kept its embassy in Tehran, supported the P5+1 deal with Iran, and lifted some but not all of the sanctions that it had imposed. Having had good trade relations with Iran in the past, Australia is now carefully looking into the possibility of opening a trade office in the Islamic Republic.
Yet Australian officials, including Bishop, in private and public meetings with Iranian counterparts have reiterated Australia’s support for the State of Israel and have condemned any anti-Israel statements made by Iranians..
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also met with Bishop on Sunday in Jerusalem, where the two discussed bilateral relations and the close friendship between the two countries.
Global and regional security issues arose during discussions, according to Liberman’s bureau, including the question of how to tackle global terrorism and the war against ISIS.
Liberman praised Australia’s contribution to the United Nations Disengagement Observe Force on the Golan Heights, and to the Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai.