Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the midst of the legal and political fight of his life, took some time out of his schedule on Monday to meet with the prime minister of Samoa, an island state in the Pacific with some 200,000 residents, which often supports Israel or abstains on critical votes in the UN.
“There is an abiding friendship between Samoa and Israel, and we greet you here as a friend,” Netanyahu said at the start of a meeting in his office with Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi.
Israel and Samoa signed a visa waiver agreement at the outset of the meeting.
“We appreciate your friendship, your support in international forums and your support for Israel joining the Asia Development Bank,” Netanyahu said.
Malielegaoi, who became prime minister in 1998 and is on his first visit to Israel, said that Samoa continues to give “careful and considered support for Israel to the maximum extent possible” at the UN.
Samoa’s support on votes is, however, not automatic. In June, for instance, it abstained – rather than voting for Israel – on a General Assembly vote condemning Hamas, and it did not vote in December on a resolution slamming the US move of its embassy to Jerusalem in December 2017.
President Reuven Rivlin, who has extensive knowledge about Samoa, told Malielegaoi on Monday that he deeply regretted not having visited his country.
Rivlin said that as Speaker of the Knesset, he had visited New Zealand, and from there had gone to Tonga. He would have liked to continue to Samoa, which is famous for its natural beauty, but there were no direct flights from Tonga. In order to reach Samoa, he would have had to fly back to New Zealand and then take another flight from New Zealand to Samoa. The time factor was prohibitive, he said.
Aware that Samoa is extremely interested in hi-tech and is one of the leaders in this field among the Pacific island states, Rivlin spoke of Israel’s cyber center in Beersheba which provides the country with the ability to protect the economy and the business world, but also to know very quickly of impending dangers. Israel had warned several countries around the globe about ISIS plans, which it had intercepted through its cyber expertise.
“Cyber is the hi-tech of the decade,” he declared.
Malielegaoi said that Samoa would like to share in Israel’s cyber knowhow in order to combat fake news, which he said is disseminated by people who want to destroy relationships. “You are far, far ahead of any nation in your research that prevents intervention,” he said. “Israel is a great nation.”