Thousands of Australians visited Israel over the past fortnight, among them the country’s prime minister, to mark a historic occasion — and also underscore that Aussie-Israeli ties are booming.
The prompt for the influx was the centenary of an important First World War battle that Australian and New Zealand soldiers won for the British, but for many of the visitors it was a back-to-the-future kind of trip. They came in part to connect with their history but also because they see the future of the Australian economy intertwined with Israel.
Among the 4,000 people who came to attend anniversary events for the Battle of Beersheba, the turning point in Britain’s First World War Palestine campaign, there were many politicians and business groups. The Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce alone brought 100 people.
The participant list of these trips indicates the extent to which Australia wants to get in on the Israeli hi-tech act. The Chamber’s delegations included the chairs of three major Australian banks and the chancellors of three Australian universities — people who do not leave the office for long-haul flights without good reason.
Australian investors see Israel as a good bet for their money, accounting for one in five dollars heading to Israeli companies through the online crowdfunding platform OurCrowd.
Defence ties are also thriving, and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull witnessed the signing of a deal that boosts Israeli defence companies’ ability to sell to Australia.
For Mr Turnbull, this boost to defence ties is not just strategically savvy, but also the progression of history and of Australian forces boosting its relationship with a country that it helped to create.