JERUSALEM The prime ministers of Australia and Israel have shared a warm bearhug and pledged deeper cooperation on cyber-security in the fight against global terror threats.
Mr Turnbull arrived in Jerusalem on Monday afternoon, local time, on a trip that had been delayed and truncated by the political fallout from the High Court’s dual citizenship ruling.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address the media in Jerusalem.
But there was no ill feeling on show at Benjamin Netanyahu’s headquarters, where he was welcomed by the Israeli prime minister pronouncing him “mishpacha” – family.
“Malcolm you are a true friend of Israel,” Mr Netanyahu said. “Our two nations understand each other in the deepest sense… and your personal commitment to Israel is absolutely clear.”
Malcolm Turnbull and Benjamin Netanyahu watch Australian ambassador to Israel Chris Cannan and Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Defence Ehud Adam sign Defence Industries Agreements. Photo: Dan Peled
Mr Turnbull said it was a “long schlepp” from Australia but “it feels like family”.
“We are all fighting together against militant Islamist terrorism,” he said. “It’s a threat to Israel, it’s a threat to Australia and it’s a threat to all who value and cherish freedom.”
After two hours of meetings, including a one-on-one discussion then an official bilateral, the men witnessed the signing of a new memorandum of understanding on defence industry co-operation.
Mr Turnbull said they had spoken at length on the Islamist terror threat, and the role of technology in both enabling and fighting against it.
The prime ministers of Australia and Israel shared a warm bearhug and pledged deeper cooperation on cyber-security Photo: Dan Peled
Technology has “empowered individuals who seek to do us harm”, he said, and cyber security was more important than ever.
Israel is considered a cyber warfare superpower, alongside the US, Russia, China and the UK.
It accounts for 10 per cent of global sales of computer and network security technology.
But it also has significant offensive powers.
In October it emerged that in 2015 an Israeli security agency hacked into Russian antivirus firm Kaspersky, which enabled it to watch Russian spies as they worked to infiltrate sensitive US networks.
Israel was reported to have used cyber weapons to spy on the Iran nuclear negotiations in 2014 and 2015.
And Israel was reportedly behind the Stuxnet virus, dubbed the world’s first digital weapon, which was used to disrupt Iran’s uranium enrichment plants.
Last year Mr Turnbull announced a $230 million cyber security strategy, which would include an offensive capability to launch pre-emptive attacks on ‘cyber raiders’.
Mr Turnbull said Monday’s agreement would lead to closer collaboration between the two countries on cyber security.
“It is vitally important that we work more closely together, more of the time, to keep our people safe from terrorism,” he said.
A particular problem was the encrypted apps that terrorists used to communicate in secret, he said.
“We look forward to deeper collaboration on defence, particularly in the cyber domain,” he said.
After the meeting Mr Turnbull told media the two men had also discussed the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel opposes but Australia supports.
It has recently come under pressure from the US, where president Trump has disavowed but so far not scrapped the agreement.
Mr Turnbull said Australia “absolutely understand Israel’s very real concerns and anxieties about Iran moving to a nuclear weapons capability but we are not persuaded that moving away from the agreement … would be beneficial in preventing that type of proliferation.”
Asked on the state of domestic politics, Mr Turnbull denied it was in a state of turmoil after the High Court decision.
“The business of government goes on,” he said. “It’s business as usual.”
Asked if he’d had enough with politics, Mr Turnbull responded “I’ve never had more fun in my life.”