THE story of Israeli survival and success is “more relevant to the wider world than ever before”, Tony Abbott declared in Jerusalem.

The former Australian prime minister was speaking at a conference organised by the right-leaning Israeli NGO Shurat Hadin. In his speech he questioned the priorities of Australia and the West, where there has been a loss of “cultural self confidence”. 

Issues that he pegged as “symbolic” such as cutting emission and supporting gay marriage are emphasised over “practical” problems, he said. But he praised the priorities of Israel, which he called a “great country and “such an inspiration”.

His impression is that Israelis are “more interested in making a difference over striking a pose”. They are interested “in survival over symbolism”. 

Abbott told an enthusiastic audience: “In my view Israel has this to teach the wider world. Never to assume that there’s safety without strength. Never to assume that there’s prosperity without effort. And never to assume that there’s friendship without reciprocity.”

He spoke about his experiences on the rugby field to illustrate his support for Israel’s security ethos. In rugby, he had a rule which was to never throw the first punch but “if anyone punched me I always hit them back, even if I thought I was going to lose the subsequent fight”.

His logic was, “If someone thinks they can hurt you without consequence they will do it again and again and again.” 

Discussing Jerusalem’s security policy Abbott said, “Israel is respected in a way that almost no country anywhere in the world is respected, because if anyone hurts Israel the retaliation is swift and certain and that’s right, that’s how it should be.”