Australia’s Prime MInister Malcolm Turnbull arrived Monday in Israel for a 48-hour state visit, the first by the country’s prime minister since the year 2000.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted Turnbull warmly in a ceremony Monday in Jerusalem, saying, “I think our two nations understand one another, in the deepest sense. We cherish the values of peace, freedom, democracy. We battle the same forces of militant Islam that threaten not only our two countries, but also our common civilization.
“Your personal commitment to Israel is absolutely clear. It is appreciated, warmly appreciated by every citizen of Israel. Tomorrow we mark the centennial of an enormously important event in the history of Zionism, the history of the Jewish people. One of these great events would not have been possible without the heroism and sacrifice of Australian troupes who liberated this land from Ottoman rule, from 400 years of Ottoman rule, with tremendous courage and it is forever etched in our memories.
“The fact that you came all the way from Australia to mark it, I think says a lot about our friendship, a lot about the deep roots between Australia and Israel, and also a lot about you and Lucy. We have to remember that this event tomorrow was the gateway to the rebirth of the Jewish people, and I look forward to marking this historic occasion with you tomorrow.
“I want to thank you for your unwavering support for Israel,” Netanyahu said.
Turnbull likewise responded with warmth, saying, “It is a long schlep, but let me say the welcome here in feeling here at home, it feels like family, I do feel that we are part of the same mishpacha.”
The Australian prime minister noted that Australian troops “fought to defend Palestine from the Nazi invaders in North Africa. As you’ve said and we discussed in Sydney, when you were down, down in Australia in February, if the Germans had got to Palestine in the Second World War, there would have been no Zionist project. That, we, we were there with you in that war, in the First World War and of course, today.
“There are Australians serving in the UN operations on Israel’s borders and of course, more broadly in the Middle East. As you know, and as we have discussed many times, we are all fighting together against militant Islamist terrorism. It is a threat to Israel, it is a threat to Australia, it is a threat to all who value and cherish freedom,” Turnbull said.
“But of course, this visit which, where you’ve welcomed us so warmly is to commemorate the Battle of Be’er Sheva. A moment in history of an extraordinary significance, one of those turning points, one of those pivotal moments in history when Australians and New-Zealanders, their Light Horse Brigades swept through the Middle East and liberated Palestine and indeed Syria, all the way up to Damascus, Jerusalem and Damascus, from the Ottoman Empire, from the Turkish occupiers. And of course, that was the year of the Balfour Declaration.
“It was a great victory, a great charge, the last successful cavalry charge in military history, and certainly one that rings through the ages, profoundly Australian in every respect, deeply etched in our national psyche.
“Lucy and I so honored to be here with you today, we have many things to discuss upstairs, more contemporary battles as well, but above all, but above all the strength of this relationship between Australia and Israel getting stronger every year.
“And in this year, 2017, you made the first visit of an Israeli Prime Minister to Australia, and I’m visiting you here now for the first time as a Prime Minister and the first visit of an Australian Prime Minister to Israel since John Howard visited in 2000.
“Stronger and stronger grow our ties, deeper and more profound than ever our commitment to the values on which our nations, our societies are based. Freedom, democracy, the rule of law, these are values we have always fought for and always will.”
Turnbull is scheduled to travel on Tuesday to the Negev with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark the centennial of the Battle of Be’er Sheva, which caused the city to pass in 1917 from Turkish occupation to that of the British Mandate.
Turnbull will only be in Israel for 48 hours; he is scheduled to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center on Wednesday. He will participate in a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance, visit the Children’s Memorial and sign the Yad Vashem Guest Book.
Australia is home to a vibrant Diaspora Jewish community that is deeply supportive of the State of Israel.