Friday, 23 Feb 2018 - 8 of Adar, 5778

Israel and Australia to deepen defense ties

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JERUSALEM—Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd announced Sunday that it would open a subsidiary in Melbourne, Australia. The company said in a release that the move is part of a wider project by the Australian Defence Force to significantly upgrade technological capabilities for the Australian army and navy, as well as part of a bilateral effort to expand business and defense ties between Canberra and Jerusalem.

The local company will be managed on site by an Israeli staff. Giora Katz, Senior Vice President for Marketing and Business Development at Rafael, said the move was part of a wider strategy to expand collaborative efforts on the ground with companies around the world. Rafael already has more than 100 collaborative efforts around the world, including a missile construction factory in India and Australia’s Bisalloy (ASX: BIS) to provide metals for military systems to create joint ventures and an infrastructure for joint production of Gil missiles in Australia.

The announcement follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on a range of defense projects between the Australian Department of Defence and the Israeli Defense Ministry, as well as the third meeting of the  Australian Strategic Policy Institute, also known as the Beersheba Dialogue, during Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s visit to Israel last week. It also follows Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Australia earlier this year, where Turnbull said Netanyahu was greeted to a “rockstar welcome.” Both sides described the reciprocal visits as “very successful.”

“Our relationship is, I believe, is stronger than it has ever been, closer than it has ever been… our memorandum of understanding on defense industry cooperation is critically important, (as is) the growing collaboration on cyber. We are establishing an annual bilateral strategic dialogue. Generally right across the board we are getting closer than ever and the collaboration is very intense,” Turnbull told the Beersheba Dialogue.

Significantly, the push in Australia to deepen defense and technology ties with Israel is seen by both the Liberal and Labour parties as a necessary step in order to bolster national security.  Turnbull said Australian authorities recently intercepted a plot in Sydney an A380 airliner, by a group that was also allegedly working on a chemical bomb, receiving direction via encrypted internet applications from the Middle East. Other observers said the expanding relationship is indicative not only of joint security threats, but of deeper substantive connections between the two countries.

“Of course this visit was a celebration of the symbolism of Beer Sheva – Australian tenacity, perseverance, excellence in face of adversity,” said Dr. Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council in Melbourne. “In that light, it was an opportunity to build on build on the values that define both of our societies – the rule of law, freedom, diversity.

“And here, I would especially stress the presence of (Labour Party chairman) Bill Shorten, the opposition leader. It’s a sign of the bipartisan support for ties, capitalizing on the natural synergies – defense, maritime security, and of course the whole spectrum of the startup industry: Agriculture, water, medicine. So in that way, last week was really a fluid follow-up to Netanyahu’s visit, where he received a very strong bipartisan welcome.”

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