Prime Minister Turnbull addresses ASPI-BESA Centre Bilateral dialogue participants in Ramat Gan

November 3, 2017 by Elana Oberlander
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The relationship between Australia and Israel is closer than it has ever been, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the Be’er Sheva Dialogue between the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and Begin-Sadat (BESA) Centre for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

Dr. Colin Rubenstein, Executive Director, Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC); Dr. Anthony Bergin, Senior Analyst, ASPI; Mark Leibler, National Chairman, AIJAC; Prof. Efraim Karsh, Director, BESA Center; Prime Minister Malcolm and Mrs. Lucy Turnbull; and Prof. Arie Zaban, President, Bar-Ilan University              Photo: Yoni Reif​

The ASPI-BESA bilateral dialogue brings together experienced voices from Australia and Israel to share perspectives and analyses on the challenges facing the world today.  The dialogue provides an opportunity to focus on critical defence and security issues while reflecting more broadly on the status and outlook for the relationship between the two countries.

“Our Memorandum of Understanding on defence industry cooperation is critically important, the growing collaboration on cyber is important, and we’re establishing an annual bilateral strategic dialogue” said Malcolm Turnbull. Noting that the two countries face the same threats from Islamist terrorism, the Prime Minister said it is crucial that they work even closer in the cyber context.  “Cyber affects everything in a completely connected world where distance has been abolished by technology.  The ability of someone to be sitting anywhere in the world and to be able to direct operation literally as though they are in the room next door brings the threat of terrorism in this great big world of ours so much closer.  Nowhere is far away from anywhere else.  The Middle East is not a long way from Australia.  Bibi says it’s a big schlep.  Sure it is – on an airplane.  But in terms of communication, it’s just a matter of seconds.”

Malcolm Turnbull addressing the dialogue Photo: Yoni Reif

Referring to this week’s terrorist attack in New York, Turnbull said that protecting crowded places is vitally important.   “We have very strong assistance and collaboration with Israel and a number other international partners.  We have to use all of our relationships in order to fulfill our most important commitment to keep our people safe.  That is the first duty of government and the collaboration with Israel is a very big part of that.”

Turnbull said that dialogues such as the one between ASPI and the BESA Centre are critical.   “The more closely we can work together on counter-terrorism and on cyber in particular, the more effective we will be in keeping our two nations safe.”

One dimension that could be strengthened between the two countries, according to the Prime Minister, is the business, technology and investment dimension.  He noted that 16 Israeli companies worth $1.8 billion are listed on the ASX, which has done a good job in making itself accessible, and which is becoming more international.  “The more investment collaboration on the technology and industry front between Australia and Israel, the better, and I think that’s the dimension that’s been underdone in the past but is being developed much more rapidly now.”

The Prime also acknowledged the participants and supporters of the Beersheba Dialogue –  including the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University, as well as the contributions and close involvement of the Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC). Prime Minister Turnbull made special mention of the role of AIJAC executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein, while also praising the support of the Pratt Foundation for the Dialogue.

Mark Leibler, National Chairman of AIJAC, delivered the vote of thanks focusing on the close bond and shared interests between the two nations. “In the hearts and minds of Australians, and increasing numbers of Israelis, Beersheba embodies Australian tenacity, perseverance, innovation, excellence and courage”, said Leibler adding, “We also share democratic, liberal values that go to the heart of our national identities: a commitment to the rule of law, individual freedoms, and respect for diversity. And this is why the natural synergies and opportunities for cooperation being explored through this third Beersheba Dialogue – across Defence, cyber security, counter-terrorism and maritime security – are considered so important for the future of both countries.”

The crowd included a number of Australian Jewish leaders and AIJAC supporters who had made the long journey to Beersheba to pay their respects at the commemoration ceremonies for the 100th anniversary of the Charge of the Light Horse Brigade – a key victory in the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, giving meaningful substance to the Balfour Declaration a few days later and making possible Israel’s creation some three decades later.

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