A DELEGATION of Australian and British politicians, diplomats and business leaders last week held talks with Israel’s top brass as part of the Australia Israel Leadership Forum (AILF) in Jerusalem.
The group met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Palestinian counterpart Salam Fayyad, as well as former British and Israeli heads of state Tony Blair and Ehud Olmert.
Founded by businessman and philanthropist Albert Dadon in 2009, the inclusion of a UK contingent at the 2012 AILF marked the first trilateral meeting of Australian, Israeli and British lawmakers.
The Australian delegation included federal Minister for Sport and Small Business Mark Arbib, and MPs Josh Frydenberg and Michael Danby.
“The trip provided an amazing insight into Israel’s domestic politics and the changes taking place in the Middle East since the Arab Spring,” Arbib told The AJN.
Included in the whistle-stop tour was a visit to Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem.
“It was an honour to lay a wreath at Yad Vashem in memory of those who lost their lives in the Holocaust,” Arbib said.
According to Frydenberg, the forum represented a rare chance for an exchange of ideas with British and Israeli peers.
“The dialogue was fantastically organised and provided the highest level of access
to Israeli policymakers,” Frydenberg said.
“It was also very constructive for my Australian colleagues and I to engage with our British political counterparts, who showed a deep commitment to Israel.
“I left Israel feeling confident that despite the significant domestic and international challenges they face, they will continue to prosper and remain a beacon of democracy in the Middle East,” he added.
AILF chair and founder of the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange, Dadon described the forum, which took place at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, as “stimulating” and “special”.
“The addition of the UK added a new dimension to our debates, as the trilateral interaction was stimulating to all,” Dadon said.
“New friendships and understandings were formed. The fact that we debated four prime ministers in two days made this dialogue very special.”
Speaking at the forum, Dadon threw his support behind the embattled Olmert, who was recently indicted for corruption following a property scandal.
“Here in this country, you take one of your best sons and bring him down,” Dadon said of Olmert.
“It’s disconcerting that you’ve cut off possibly one of the best prime ministers you’ve ever had,” adding that Israel should follow France’s lead and afford heads of state immunity from indictment.
There was also a raft of international journalists on hand, including The Australian newspaper’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan.
AILF chair Albert Dadon (right) with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Photo: Elisha Brodsky)