Malcolm Turnbull

Israeli PM in Australia for official visit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Sydney for meetings with his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull. Source: AAP

SBS World News Radio: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Sydney for meetings with his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull.

Benjamin Netanyahu has just wrapped up a visit to Singapore.

Before that, he was in the United States to meet with President Donald Trump.

Now, for the first time ever, a sitting prime minister of Israel is visiting Australia.

The Australian Jewish Council's Dr Colin Rubenstein says it is difficult for Israeli leaders to get the opportunity to visit their allies.

"It's very hard for Israeli prime ministers to leave the country for more than three days. Don't you understand the country's under perpetual threat? And the politics at home are rough and ready, as we all know. So it's very difficult to get away for a week, essentially. And there are so many other issues on the agenda. It's taken a while, perhaps it's overdue, but, for all those reasons, that's what makes it all the more exciting and important."

But not everyone is excited by the prospect of Mr Netanyahu's visit.

Peter Slezak belongs to a group called Independent Australian Jewish Voices, as well as the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network.

He says the invitation to Mr Netanyahu should never have been extended, citing concerns over the actions of Israeli forces in disputed territories.

"Well, I think we shouldn't welcome him, we shouldn't have invited him. Benjamin Netanyahu is responsible for very serious crimes against international law in the West Bank, in Gaza."

Mr Slezak says there are many in the Jewish community who disagree with the policies of Israel and Mr Netanyahu.

"I'm Jewish. My parents are both Holocaust survivors. My mother and her mother survived Auschwitz. So, there's a lesson we're supposed to have learnt. We say, 'Never again,' but, sadly, I think most Jews don't understand that properly. That means never again to anybody."

In Canberra, the head of the general delegation of Palestine to Australia, Izzat Abdulhadi, says the meeting is an opportunity.

He wants Malcolm Turnbull to make the case for a two-state solution, with both Israel and Palestine recognised as sovereign countries.

"I hope, also, that Mr Turnbull told - will tell - Mr Netanyahu to end the occupation, military occupation, soon, immediately, because this would save the two-state solution. Otherwise, we will go through a sort of circle of violence, unfortunately."

Mr Netanyahu will also meet with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who says he will express Labor's support for a two-state solution, which has bipartisan support in Canberra.

Former Labor leader Kevin Rudd says he thinks Australia should go further and formally recognise a Palestinian state.

He joins similar calls from senior Labor figures Bob Carr, Bob Hawke and Gareth Evans.

But current Labor MP Michael Danby, a strong supporter of Israel, criticises his one-time political allies.

"I wish Bob Carr and Bob Hawke and Gareth Evans would be such big heroes when a giant like China comes to Australia. Where were they for the Tibetans or the Uyghurs?"

The Turnbull Government has been critical of settlements in recent months but has positioned itself as a close friend of Israel.

Last December, the United Nations Security Council voted 14-0 to condemn Israeli settlements, with the United States abstaining.

Australia does not have a seat in the council at the moment, but Mr Turnbull has said Australia would have voted against what he called a "one-sided" motion if it had the chance.

Mr Netanyahu will be in Australia for four days.


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