Deepening ties Down Under

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have received a warm welcome in his visit to Australia, more has to be done for the collaboration between the two countries to improve.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu walks alongside Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull upon their arrival at Admiralty House in Sydney. (photo credit: REUTERS)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu walks alongside Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull upon their arrival at Admiralty House in Sydney.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull went out of his way to make Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu feel welcome during his trip this week.
The pomp and warmth that characterized the reception by the Aussies were extraordinary. In part, this is because Israel and Australia share so much as democracies.
“We have so much in common,” Turnbull said at the start of a press conference in Sydney on Wednesday.
“Shared values, democracy, freedom, the rule of law. Two great democracies – one very small in area, one vast, but each of us big-hearted, generous, committed to freedom.”
In an op-ed for The Australian that appeared on the paper’s front page and was titled “Welcome, Mr Netanyahu: the first Israeli PM to visit Australia,” Turnbull wrote that, though Israel is a nation located in a region “wracked by war,” nevertheless the Jewish state “succeeds as the sole liberal democracy, a world leader in every field of science and technology, its culture of innovation the envy of the world.”
Yet, as noted by Anthony Bergin, senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, more needs to be done to improve cooperation between the two countries.
The time has come for them to take cooperation – particularly in the area of security – beyond public declarations to the level of concrete and regular interaction on a long list of issues.
The two countries lack a high-level military exchange.
Amazingly, Israel does not have a military attaché stationed in Canberra, though there is a Defense Ministry official there. And the Australian military attaché responsible for Israel is based in Ankara, not Israel.
The issue of military cooperation came up in discussions during Netanyahu’s visit. In order to facilitate the process of increased cooperation, Defense Ministry director-general Udi Adam is scheduled to hold talks in Australia in June.
And before Turnbull’s scheduled visit to Israel at the end of October to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, a delegation from the Australian Defense Ministry is scheduled to hold talks in Israel.
Both the IDF and the Australian Defense Forces rely heavily on advanced technology. There is plenty of room for cross fertilization. Israel can aid Australia in providing cyber security for its industries and institutions.
Israel’s immense experience with counterterrorism and counterinsurgency tactics, techniques and procedures can be an asset to Australia as well. Meanwhile, Israel, with its strong ethos of self-reliance, can learn from Australia how to work within a military coalition framework.
In the area of “soft” security, Israel also has much to offer, as a country that has fought terrorism for decades while preserving a vibrant democracy and an innovative economy.
Water management is yet another area in which Israel has much to offer Australia, a country that grapples with drought. From dryland farming and drip irrigation to wastewater recycling, Israel is a world leader.
As Netanyahu noted during his visit to Singapore and Australia, Israel is consciously pivoting toward Asia in a concerted effort to improve economic relations with that part of the world.
“Our trade with Australia is $1 billion,” Netanyahu said while in Sydney. “It should be at least double or triple that.
He encouraged business people in both countries to visit. “If I did the schlep, they should do it, too.”
Australia is poised to become one of the world’s largest arms purchasers, with plans to spend $25b. to dramatically upgrade its military due to regional concerns, particularly signs of growing Islamist radicalism in Malaysia and Indonesia.
The 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba provides an ideal opportunity to upgrade relations between Israel and Australia beyond declarations and recognition of mutual goals and values to concrete cooperation.
Australia played a key role in bringing to an end Ottoman rule in what later became the State of Israel. This profound fact should serve as a basis for future relations between the countries