Benjamin Netanyahu to be first Israel PM to visit Australia after Julie Bishop invitation

Benjamin Netanyahu will become the first sitting Israeli prime minister to make an official visit to Australia in 2017, after accepting an invitation from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Ms Bishop is wrapping up a three day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories on Monday, after meeting with Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and visiting Israel’s Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem.

As part of the visit Ms Bishop discussed Australia and Israel’s bilateral relationship, the ongoing Middle East peace process and Australian development assistance to the Palestinian Territories.

Ms Bishop told Mr Netanyahu, leader of the country’s right-wing Likud party, that Australia and Israel enjoy a deep friendship, recognising the contribution Australia’s Jewish community make to the nation.

“I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm our absolute enduring commitment to the state of Israel and our friendship, and invite you to come to Australia,” Ms Bishop said.

“We’re thinking there’s a little window of opportunity early next year maybe?”

Mr Netanyahu thanked Ms Bishop for ongoing co-operation between the two countries.

Dates for the visit are expected to be finalised in coming months. It comes after a planned July 2014 trip by Mr Netanyahu was cancelled at the last minute.

“Your friendship is terrific – Australia, the government’s, and yours personally and we appreciate our friends,” Mr Netanyahu said.

The Jerusalem Post reported Mr Rivlin “apologised profusely” to Ms Bishop after he cancelled a scheduled state visit to Australia in March this year for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Mr Rivlin told Ms Bishop he would be happy to visit Australia in the future.

During a visit to the Palestinian Territories, Ms Bishop was expected to meet with Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Economy Minister Abeer Odeh.

She also met with Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman to discuss international security and the war against the Islamic State group.

Ms Bishop also discussed the closed trial of World Vision employee Mohammed al-Halabi, who was charged over allegations he defrauded the charity to assist the militant group Hamas.

World Vision International president Kevin Jenkins and Australian chief executive Tim Costello have raised questions about the amount of money involved in the case.

Ms Bishop said the case was “deeply concerning”.


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