Rivlin to visit Fiji en route to Australia

The nation of islands is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its independence and is hosting a Pacific Islands Summit.

President Reuven Rivlin with three generations of artichokes growers (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin with three generations of artichokes growers
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Just prior to leaving for his long delayed visit to Australia on Tuesday, President Reuven Rivlin on Monday addressed the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, saying that a safe and secure Israel is essential for the survival of the Jewish people – and a strong sense of connection among world Jewry is vital to the survival of Israel.
In line with this philosophy, Rivlin is traveling to Australia to launch United Israel Appeal campaigns in Sydney and Melbourne.
En route, he will spend 24 hours in Fiji, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary year of its independence and is also hosting a Pacific Islands Summit during the president’s brief stay.
Rivlin was initially scheduled to visit Australia in March 2016, but instead went in the opposite direction and landed in Moscow where he met with President Vladimir Putin to discuss how the whole region was being affected by the situation in Syria.
The cancellation of the Australia visit was exceedingly uncomfortable and embarrassing for the Australian authorities. The governor-general had to reschedule his own agenda, having previously postponed an overseas trip due to the anticipated visit by the president of Israel.
Moreover, the Foreign Minister of Iran had also been scheduled then to visit Australia. Realizing that it would not be wise to have him and Rivlin visiting the island continent at the same time, however, the Australians had delayed the Iranian visit – even though it was the first by a high ranking Iranian official in 15 years.
The Jewish communities in different states had arranged a series of gala events , which had to be canceled, and all in all it was a very low point in Israel-Australia relations – especially in view of the fact that Australia had cast the first “yes” vote for the partition of Palestine at the United Nations in November 1947, and that it had been one of the first countries in 1949 to establish diplomatic relations with the fledgling Jewish state.
RIVLIN IS the third Israeli president to visit Australia.
The first was Chaim Herzog in 1986, followed by Moshe Katsav in 2005. Each was in Australia for a longer period than Rivlin, who will only be there for a few days because it is imperative that he is back in Israel in time for the March 2 elections.
Rivlin will be the second president of Israel to visit Fiji. The first was also Chaim Herzog. Although he will be in Fiji for only 24 hours, Rivlin, as a former communications minister, may have the opportunity to see Fiji’s highly sophisticated communications system, which even as far back as 1986, was superior to Israel’s.
Relations between Fiji and Israel began soon after the archipelago gained independence, but full diplomatic relations were not established till May 2002.
Rivlin is due to arrive in Fiji on Thursday and will be greeted by Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainmarama, who is hosting a summit meeting of the Pacific Island States, most of which consistently stand with Israel in international forums.
Among those who have confirmed their attendance at the summit are Prime Minister Hon. James Marape; the Foreign Affairs minister of Papua New Guinea; Prime Minister Hon. Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa; the deputy prime minister of the Kingdom of Tonga; the deputy prime minister of Tuvalu; and the foreign minister of the Solomon Islands.
 High level representatives from other Pacific Island states, including the Republic of Vanuatu, are also expected to participate.
Rivlin will also hold bilateral meeting with various dignitaries attending the summit, some of whom have met with Rivlin previously when they visited Israel.
As part of the summit, Rivlin will also attend a state dinner hosted by Fiji’s President Jioji Konousi.
As is the case with many other countries, the Pacific Island states are interested in benefiting from Israel’s know-how, experience and innovative skills in the fields of sustainable development, public health, food security, water management and disaster preparedness.
In Australia, in addition to launching United Israel Appeal campaigns, Rivlin will be the official guest of Governor General David Hurley, and will meet at Parliament House in Canberra with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
In Sydney he will meet with New South Wales Governor Margaret Beazley, and Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
 In Melbourne he will meet with Governor of Victoria Linda Dessau.
Rivlin will also attend bilateral business forums in both Melbourne and Sydney, and will meet with members of the Jewish communities in both cities.