While relationships with Israel may be underappreciated by many, Christians take a special interest in Israel as the nation of God’s chosen people.
His Excellency Mr Amir Maimon, Israeli Ambassador to Australia, visited Vision Christian Media’s studios to speak with Neil Johnson, host of 20Twenty, about his plans to create stronger relations with Australia. Following an extensive career in the Israeli Defence Force, he reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He joined the Israeli Military Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has held diplomatic posts in London, Canada, Turkey, Ethiopia, Washington and Lithuania.
Aliyah, Immigration to the Promised Land
In 1909, Amir’s family left their comfortable life in Yemen and immigrated to Israel. They walked over 130 kilometres in the scorching desert heat during the Yemenite summer. It took them several days to reach the port of Maydi as they only walked during the cooler times of the day. From there, they sailed to the port of Aden, where they were detained in quarantine for three months due to health concerns. They then boarded a German steamboat and finally arrived in Israel. Today, Jews are arriving in their thousands by aircraft with a desire to resume the Jewish life in the land that was given to the Jewish people by God.
Australian Light Horse Battalion Liberates Be’er Sheva
The relationship between Australia and Israel goes back to the First World War when the Australian Light Horse Battalion liberated the city of Be’er Sheva, a biblical city mentioned in the Old Testament. The ANZAC soldiers who sacrificed their lives to free this ancient city from the Ottoman Empire are buried there. The Australian Soldier Park was also established as a memorial to the Australian Light Horse regiments.
A Tiny Country of Great Significance
Israel is a tiny country surrounded by enemies. To give you an idea of the size of Israel, Amir describes it as ‘not even one-third the size of Tasmania. Tasmania is about 68,000 square kilometres, and Israel is only about 20,000 square kilometres.’
Australia is a popular destination for young Israelis to visit after they’ve completed their military service. The Australian Government has an agreement with Israel that grants Israelis a working travel visa that permits them to stay in Australia for a year. If they work for more than three weeks during their stay, they can extend their visa for two more years.
Declaring Jerusalem the Capital
The controversy around Israel and Palestine claiming Jerusalem as their capital has been ongoing. However, Amir makes it clear that Jerusalem has always been the capital of Israel and was never the capital of any other nation than that of the Jewish people. The House of Representatives, all government officials and ministries are based in Jerusalem. When Donald Trump relocated the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May of 2018, it became worldwide news as a declaration that Trump was acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Amir hopes that more and more countries will also relocate their embassies to Jerusalem. Although Australia hasn’t yet made that move, Amir informs that Australia did open a Trade and Defence office in Jerusalem, a step in the right direction, he believes.
Israel is surrounded by enemies. Besides the tensions between the Palestinian and Jewish people, the Iranian nuclear program is a growing threat of global concern. Iran currently has several research sites, two uranium mines, a research reactor and uranium processing facilities. Amir says Iran has already mastered the technology and poses a real threat, as stated in the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) report released by The United Nations.
Every Iranian leader has proclaimed their intention to wipe out the state of Israel from the map. They are openly declaring the destruction of Israel and the USA. They now have the capability to do this with their ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.
Iran’s Terrorist Proxies
Iran’s threats go beyond its nuclear weapons program. Iran supports terrorism and undermines some of the Arab states in the region, such as United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, who happen to be participants of the Abraham Accords. Early this year, they used one of their proxies, the Houthis, in Yemen to help launch ballistic missiles. Apart from the Houthis, they also have the support of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli military is ready to defend itself with retaliation strikes from rockets launched across the Syrian border. What the world fears, now that Iran has access to nuclear weapons, is the potential for a nuclear war to start.
‘We used to have a very good relationship with Iran until the end of the seventies when new leadership took over. It is the Ayatollahs that are looking for the destruction of the state of Israel. It is the duty of every democratic government to take all necessary measures to defend its citizens. Israel is no different from Australia, the United States, or the United Kingdom. So, if the Iranians pose an immediate threat, we have the means to respond and eliminate the threat,’ said Amir.
The Dispute Between Israel and Palestine
The dispute between the Palestinians and the Israelis over territory has been ongoing since 2006, when the Israeli government unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip. Hamas recently attacked Israel by firing missiles directed at innocent Israelis. These people are recognised, even by Australia, as terrorists. It is clear they are looking to harm Israel. Prime Minister Lapid clearly stated that Israel is committed to having a two-state solution.
Some progress was made in 1993 with the signing of the Declaration of Principles. However, Palestinian leaders wanted more land than the Israeli leaders were offering. This included the dispute of declaring Jerusalem the capital of Palestine, not Israel. The Palestinians are demanding the right to return to where they lived prior to 1947, which would mean the Israelis would have to hand over Jaffa, Tel Aviv and Haifa as Palestinian territory. The problem here is that if Israel hands these places over to the Palestinians, they will eventually demand more and more territory until Israel and the Jewish people are completely removed. Hence why negotiations are taking longer than expected.
Donald Trump initiates The Abraham Accords
On 13 August 2020, US President, Donald Trump initiated the Abraham Accords. It was an agreement signed between the United Emirates, Israel, Bahrain, and the United States. It’s been called the most peaceful deal between Arab nations and Israel since 1994 when Jordan signed a peace agreement with Israel.
Amir’s job is to promote what Israel has to offer other countries. They don’t want to be seen as a country in constant conflict. Israel has been described as a superpower in the world of technology and innovation. They also have an abundance of natural gas. Israel’s productivity in multiple industries generates billions of dollars every year. Many countries are beginning to realise the benefits of a relationship with Israel.
‘What I like about the Abraham Accords agreement is that it’s not just an agreement between leaders on a piece of paper. The warmth of the relationship can be seen as people from the Emirates and Bahrain visit Israel and vice versa. We are really looking forward to expanding our relationship to other countries,’ said Amir.
Amir made special mention of the warm welcome he received from Christians in Australia.
‘Usually, when I attend Jewish events with the Jewish community, it’s a very warm gathering. To experience the same feeling with non-Jewish people, Christians who love Israel, for me, is very moving. I can tell you that it’s not every day that people can bring me to tears.’
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