On November 22, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop received the “Torch of Learning” award from Australian Friends of Hebrew University in Sydney.
On accepting the award, Ms Bishop delivered a strong speech in which she said, “Tonight, in accepting the Torch of Learning Award, I commit anew to the powerful relationship between our two countries,” adding, “Israel’s struggles are our struggles. Their fight is our fight. Israel’s opportunities are our opportunities. Israel’s values are our values. We must both be prepared to continue to defend them. Australia and Israel – ours is a special friendship, a special relationship and long may it endure.”
In her speech titled, “The changing face of the political landscape in Israel, the Middle East and in Australia”, Ms Bishop discussed the complex challenges arising from the Syrian civil war and the threat of Islamist extremism and terrorist organisations including Da’esh. She also contrasted the regional turmoil with Israel’s strength as a democratic nation that is leading the way in innovation.
Regarding Israeli innovation Ms Bishop said:
“Australia recognises in Israel a fellow innovator, an entrepreneurial nation that has emerged as a major high tech global leader. Our Assistant Minister for Innovation, Wyatt Roy, a very smart 25 year old, has been in Israel this month, looking for ideas and inspiration to better drive our innovation agenda.
“Beyond the economic benefits of innovation, we also recognise the importance of innovation as a driver of social optimism. Democracy too, is a powerful social motivator because people are energised by the opportunity to have a say in how they are governed. In a similar way, innovation reminds people that not only is change possible but that we can, through clever, creative use of human agency improve the world in which we live. So these two forces, democracy and innovation, are both clearly alive in Australia and Israel today, and they offer the hope of better times ahead.”
Commenting on the “special friendship” between Israel and Australia, Ms Bishop said:
“As Australia’s Foreign Minister, I confirm without hesitation, unequivocally, that Australia is, and will remain, a staunch friend and supporter of the State of Israel. Australia fully supports the right of the people of Israel to live within secure borders, in peace and security.
“I have stated our unambiguous support many times, particularly at the UN General Assembly where we join a very small number of nations prepared to oppose one-sided unfair and discriminatory resolutions that target Israel, and only Israel.
“I have given personal assurances to my counterpart Foreign Minister, Prime Minister Netanyahu, of the Turnbull Government’s ongoing friendship, commitment and support.
“And we will not hesitate to call out anti-semitic discrimination, where we see it wherever it occurs, particularly the pernicious BDS campaign that is still to [sic] operating in this country.
“With respect to the Peace Process, our Government continues to advocate for a two-state solution as the only viable pathway to a final settlement with the Palestinian population.
“The responsibility lies with us today – and with the next generation of leaders, many of them probably studying at the Hebrew University – to work towards peaceful, negotiated, solutions to the current challenges in the Middle East.”
You can read Ms Bishop’s full speech here.