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September 5, 2016 12:26 pm

Australian Foreign Minister Wraps Up ‘Very Successful’ Trip to Jewish State; Netanyahu Accepts Invite to Be First Israeli PM to Visit Down Under

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Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Sunday. Photo: GPO / Amos Ben Gershom via Twitter.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Sunday. Photo: GPO / Amos Ben Gershom via Twitter.

Australia’s foreign minister concluded on Monday what Canberra’s envoy to Jerusalem called a “very successful” three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Hebrew news site nrg reported.

On Sunday, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop held meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Bishop invited Netanyahu to become the first Israeli prime minister ever to visit Australia.

“The Australian public would warmly embrace you,” Bishop told Netanyahu. The prime minister accepted Bishop’s invitation, according to a statement released by his office.

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Nrg reported that Netanyahu reiterated to Bishop his view that closer ties between Israel and Arab countries in the region would bolster the chance of achieving peace with the Palestinians. He also showed her a video highlighting Palestinian incitement against Israel.

During their meeting, Bishop reportedly expressed to Netanyahu her opposition to unilateral diplomatic initiatives related to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. She also was reported to have said that the issue of settlements should be left for final-status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

In the past, as reported by The Algemeiner, Bishop questioned the idea that Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank violate international law.

“I would like to see which international law has declared them illegal,” she was quoted as saying during a January 2014 visit to Israel.

Beersheba in 1917. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Beersheba in 1917. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Another matter Bishop discussed with Netanyahu on Sunday was the importance her government places on marking the 100th anniversary of the October 1917 liberation of Beersheba from the Ottoman Turks by Australian troops during World War I. Top Australian officials — including, potentially, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull — are expected to come to Israel for a commemorative event marking the centenary of the famous Australian cavalry charge across the Negev Desert into Beersheba, in what proved to be a key turning point in the British Empire’s military campaign against the Ottomans in the Middle East.

Netanyahu thanked Bishop for her country’s support of Israel. “Your friendship is terrific…and we appreciate our friends,” he told her.

On Monday, Bishop stopped in Ramallah for a meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. Later, she held meetings in Israel with opposition leader Isaac Herzog, Zionist Union MK and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid.

Australian Ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma told nrg on Monday that Bishop was “received warmly” in Israel and that the visit “met expectations.” He said her trip was a manifestation of the “excellent ties” that exist between Australia and Israel.

In a statement released ahead of her visit, Bishop said, “Australia and Israel enjoy a deep friendship, underpinned by historical and community ties. Australia’s Jewish community makes a significant contribution to our nation.”

As was reported in The Algemeiner, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) announced last month that it was ceasing all funding of programs by the Christian charity World Vision in the Palestinian territories, after the head of its Gaza branch was caught diverting an estimated $7.2 million a year to Hamas.

DFAT, which has given World Vision a total of 5 million Australian dollars ($3.8 million) over the past three years, called the revelation “deeply troubling,” and said it is ”urgently seeking more information” from the charity and the Israeli authorities.

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