1949 was a big year in the story of the great friendship between Australia and Israel. In this year, the Australian government recognized the young and brave State of Israel as an independent nation, formally cementing our diplomatic relationship.
Four months later, Australia’s external affairs minister and then-UN General Assembly president Dr H.V. Evatt, “Doc” for short, chaired the committee that recommended to the United Nations that Israel be welcomed into the international community of nations. Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Abba Eban, thanked Doc Evatt for “the warmth and eloquence with which you welcomed Israel into the family of nations.” Two years earlier, Australia was the first country to vote ‘Yes’ to the 1947 UN Partition Plan that called for the establishment of a Jewish and Arab state – the first of many votes in the UN where Australia would stand firmly by Israel’s side.
But Australia’s strong connection to Israel goes back more than a century.
In 1917, Australian Lighthorsemen charged entrenched Ottoman machine gun positions in Beersheba in one of the last great cavalry charges. Their success led to rapid Allied advances in the Sinai-Palestine campaign and the capture of Jerusalem later that year – military victories that helped enable the creation of the State of Israel.
We remain committed to Israel’s security. Australian soldiers serve on Israel’s borders, in the Sinai overseeing the crucial peace between Israel and Egypt as well as in the north on Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Syria.
The Australia-Israel relationship is stronger than ever, continuing to expand into new spheres. Reciprocal prime ministerial visits reinforced the seriousness of our close connection and laid the groundwork for stronger security and defense ties. The Australian government’s recent decision to recognize Israel’s capital and establish a Trade and Defense Office in west Jerusalem and to appoint a resident defense attaché, demonstrate that we’re committed to broadening and deepening our relationship.
Our economies are also growing closer through fast-growing innovation, investment and trade connections. The ratification of the bilateral Research and Development Agreement in 2018 will enhance joint scientific cooperation and ensure both of our nations remain at the leading edge of technological innovation, particularly in areas where Australia and Israel have world’s best capabilities – such as health, life sciences and agriculture. The Australian government’s Tel Aviv “Landing Pad” has brought more than 60 early-stage Australian start-ups to Israel since 2017 and is building bridges between Australia and the start-up nation.
Increasingly, Australia is proving to be an attractive destination for Israeli entrepreneurs. In the past few years, there has been a rapid growth in Israeli companies listing on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) and taking advantage of Australia’s robust and sophisticated $6 trillion financial markets. Some 17 Israeli companies have listed so far and there are more in the pipeline. The returns have been good too, with listed Israeli companies experiencing around 74% share price growth on average.
More and more Israeli companies are investing in Australia in diverse sectors, including drones, agribusiness and cyber security.
So while our relationship may have been forged in the past, Australia and Israel continue to look forward as we work together to face the challenges and take the opportunities of the future.
Tonight, in honor of the 70th anniversary of our diplomatic relations, the Tel Aviv municipality will illuminate its windows with the flag of Australia. I encourage you all to visit the municipality, to take a picture with the flag and celebrate a true and steadfast mateship.
Once a mate, always a mate.
The writer is the Australian Ambassador to Israel.
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