Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Sunday and invited him to become the first Israeli premier to visit the pacific continent, According to Israeli media
“I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm our absolute enduring commitment to the State of Israel and our friendship, and invite you to come to Australia,” Bishop said, suggesting a time frame for the visit early next year.
“The Australian public would warmly embrace you, welcome you and we would look forward to the first visit of an Israeli prime minister ever to Australia,” she said.
Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted an invitation to make the first official visit to Australia by a sitting Israeli prime minister.
Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, extended the invitation on a two-day visit to Israel in which she met Netanyahu and the president, Reuven Rivlin.
At a photo opportunity at their meeting, Bishop said: “We’re thinking there’s a little window of opportunity early next year maybe, and the Australian public would warmly embrace you, welcome you.”
Netanyahu accepted and described Australia’s friendship as “terrific”.
Julie Bishop extends invitation during visit to Israel during which she raised the case of the World Vision employee who allegedly diverted funds to Hamas
According to reports, Bishop raised the case of Mohammad El Halabi, the zonal manager of the Gaza branch of World Vision arrested over allegations he used his position to divert millions of dollars of humanitarian funds to Hamas and its terrorist and military activities.
While Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade suspended funding of World Vision programs in Palestine after the charges were laid by Israel’s domestic security agency Shin Bet.
Tim Costello, chief executive of World Vision Australia, said he was “very relieved” the matter had been raised. He called for Halabi to be tried in an open court.
Bishop’s itinerary included laying a wreath at the Holocaust museum Yad Vashem, and attending an innovation hub in Tel Aviv.
After attending a wreath laying ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial earlier in the day, Bishop met with Rivlin and re-affirmed Australia’s commitment to taking a pro-Israel stance in international forums when “obviously biased, discriminatory and unfair resolutions [are] put forward.”
According to The Jerusalem Post cites unnamed sources in the President’s office saying that the two leaders discussed, among other things, the nuclear deal with Iran.
Australia has maintained an embassy in Tehran and lifted some of the sanctions imposed in the wake of the nuclear deal with Iran struck last year, and is considering renewing trade relations with the country by opening an Austrade office in the Islamic nation.
According to the Post’s source, Bishop is said to have told Rivlin: “We have to be clear-eyed about Iran and not see it as we want it, but see it as it is.”
Bishop is also scheduled to visit the Palestinian territories where she will meet with Prime Minister Hamdallah and Economy Minister Odeh to discuss the Middle East peace process and Australia’s development assistance to the Palestinians.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade last month suspended development funding to World Vision programs in the Palestinian territories following accusations by Israel that the head of the organization’s Gaza branch had diverted millions of dollars to Hamas and its military wing.
Despite a positive relationship with Israel, Bishop in March declined a call to re-locate the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.