David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) was recently in Australia, Singapore and Indonesia, in a joint visit with, and coordinated by, the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), a longtime partner of AJC.
Harris has led AJC since 1990 and is considered to be a leading global advocate in Jewish affairs.
AIJAC’s Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein, who organised the Jakarta, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra program, was joined by the Harris led AJC delegation in meetings with senior politicians, and prominent decision and opinion makers in each city.
In two days of consutlations in Jakarta, positive meetings were held with senior journalists, a dinner with six senior members of Parliament, two former Foreign Ministers and a brief meeting with new Vice President Jusuf Kalla who has been to Israel twice, as well as discussions with the Australian and U.S. Ambassadors. All in all, an encouraging series of exchanges were conducted.
In Canberra, Harris together with Rubenstein met with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. They conveyed to Prime Minister Abbott sincere appreciation for the Australian Government’s continued support for the State of Israel especially during the recent Operation Protective Edge, as well as for strengthening ties between Australia and Israel, and between Australia and the United States and for the Australian Government’s leadership role in condemning and confronting global Islamist terrorism. They also emphasised the importance of preventing a bad deal on Iran’s nuclear program and the dangerous implications of Iran becoming a nuclear threshold state.
Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they also thanked the Australian Government for its commitment to a two-state peace deal to be progressed through direct negotiations, while emphasising that Palestinian unilateral efforts in international forums would only delay the possibility of a peaceful outcome for Israelis and Palestinians.
In Canberra, the delegation also met with the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten , the Minister of Defence, Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Permanent Secretary of Defence, Shadow Minister of Defence, Shadow Attorney-General, and both the Israeli and U.S. ambassadors. Additionally, the group met with several top journalists and think tank directors, and had a dinner with many members of the Australia/Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group.
“We came to Australia, first and foremost, to express our heartfelt gratitude and admiration for the country’s indispensable alliance with the United States and steadfast support for Israel,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.
“This is truly an exceptional nation, one that has stood with us shoulder-to-shoulder time and again. We are inspired by Australia’s regional and global partnership in an increasingly turbulent world. And its Jewish community is among the most impressive, vibrant, and dedicated in the world.”
“We very much appreciated the Prime Minister’s receptiveness, warmth and encouraging response to our concerns, as well as the ongoing support of the Opposition Leader” Dr. Rubenstein concluded.
The visits to Melbourne and Sydney included meetings with leaders of the local Jewish communities, state parliamentarians and journalists, as well as several groups of young Jewish policy advocates.