Israeli President Reuven Rivlin decided to cancel a trip to Australia, choosing to take a trip to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin instead. Australia has reacted angrily to the decision, saying it is not the way to treat a friendly country.
However, according to the security establishment, the President’s decision to deflect from his intended trip to Australia was due to an urgent need for an Israel-Russia meeting. The President’s visit to the country, which was scheduled for March 13, would have been the first visit by an Israeli President to Australia in 10 years.
Reportedly, it was Rivlin’s office that contacted Canberra regarding a possible visit three weeks back. According to a senior government official, the cancellation of the trip, after so many arrangements led to a great disappointment. A large amount of work was already completed and dates had to be adjusted to accommodate the president. The Jewish community in Australia also arranged several events for the President’s visit.
“People feel angry and taken for granted. It burns goodwill,” the ABC quoted the official as saying.
While the preparations in Australia were in full progress, Putin invited Rivlin on the exact dates to a work meeting. The YNet News reported that Rivlin left the matter with Israel’s Foreign Ministry, which after discussion with various parties, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his capacity is the foreign minister, decided to keep Putin’s request given the current regional scenario.
An official source in Israel said that it has much respect for Australia, but urgent security issues made the president’s visit to Putin more critical.
“The area is burning and Russia is a superpower that has decided to actively intervene, and coordination with Israel is a vital matter,” the YNet News quoted the source as saying.
A senior Australian official said, “We were really looking forward to this visit. It was supposed to be the third visit of an Israeli president since the founding of your country. Elections will take place in Australia this year and therefore it will be very difficult to set up another date for a visit. We did a lot to facilitate the visit and ensure it would happen. Israel suggested the dates. So there is disappointment and anger.”