Australian Prime Minister John Howard arrived for an official
four day visit to Israel. Howard's first trip to Israel was
as a 24-year-old backpacker in 1965. In those days he stayed
at the Jerusalem YMCA, just across the road from the King
David, where this week he is occupying the vast royal
On Sunday, Bar-Ilan University conferred on him an honorary
doctorate for his support for the state of Israel and peace.
In his remarks accepting the degree, Doctor John Winston
Howard recalled events from his personal journey in life:
those Jewish friends from university days, some of them still
close; the Jewish professor, the late Julius Stone, who
taught him jurisprudence and international law; and the
Sydney lawyer, Myer Rosenblum, who took him on as an articled
Mr. Howard told the Bar-Ilan University gathering that
Australia and Israel shared a commitment to the basic
principles of democracy, the rule of law, personal freedom,
human rights and religious and racial tolerance. "I'm very
proud to say that Australia not only preaches, but also
practices to the full, racial understanding and racial
tolerance," he said. "Religious tolerance in Australia is a
given. We openly promote and practice it."
The Australian prime minister also said Jews had made a
massive contribution to Australia since the first of them
arrived with the First Fleet. A Jew was one of seven soldiers
who won a Victoria Cross at Gallipoli. The greatest field
commander of World War I was the Jewish-Australian Sir John
Howard was also scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister
Ehud Barak, President Ezer Weizman, Foreign Minister David
Levy, Communications Minister Eliyahu Ben Eliezer and Ariel
Sharon, head of the main opposition party, Likud. He also
planned to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in
Jerusalem and to participate in Holocaust Day ceremonies.
Howard also planned to go to Gaza City for talks with
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Bob Hawke was the last Australian prime minister to make a
state visit to Israel in 1987. His successor, Paul Keating,
attended the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.