Israeli PM criticises UN 'hypocrisy' on historic Australia visit

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, arrive at Sydney AirportImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Mr Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, arrive at Sydney Airport

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has thanked Australia for defending his nation against UN resolutions during a historic visit to Sydney.

Mr Netanyahu on Wednesday became the first sitting Israeli PM to make a trip to Australia.

He arrived hours after Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull wrote an article criticising the UN for "one-sided resolutions" unfavourable to Israel.

Mr Turnbull reaffirmed Australia's commitment to a two-state solution.

Last week, US President Donald Trump broke with decades of US foreign policy by not committing explicitly to backing a future independent Palestine.

Mr Netanyahu is in Australia for talks about expanding co-operation in cyber security, technological innovation and science.

United over UN

In an opinion column, Mr Turnbull reiterated his government's opposition to a UN resolution in December that urged an end to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"Many view Israel exclusively through the lens of its conflict with the Palestinians," Mr Turnbull wrote in The Australian newspaper.

"They demand that the [Australian] government take the side of those in the international community who seek to chastise Israel - and it alone - for the continuing failure of the peace process."

Mr Netanyahu thanked Mr Turnbull for being willing to "puncture UN hypocrisy", describing Israel and Australia as "extraordinary friends".

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Mr Netanyahu and Mr Turnbull meet in Sydney on Wednesday

"The UN is capable of many absurdities, and I think it's important that you have straightforward and clear countries like Australia that often bring it back to Earth," Mr Netanyahu said in a joint press conference.

Mr Turnbull called Israel a "truly miraculous nation", and stressed the countries must co-operate on security.

He said Australia had always supported a two-state solution.

"It needs to be resolved by direct negotiations between the parties and we certainly encourage that," he said.

Criticism in Australia

More than 60 prominent Australians, including business and religious leaders, academics and entertainers, signed an open letter opposing Mr Netanyahu's visit before his arrival.

"Mr Netanyahu's policies consistently aim to provoke, intimidate and oppress the Palestinian population which increase that imbalance, thus taking Israel irretrievably further from peace," said the statement, organised by the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network.

Security is expected to be tight for Mr Netanyahu's four-day trip.

What is the two-state solution?

A "two-state solution" to the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is the declared goal of their leaders and the international community.

It is the shorthand for a final settlement that would see the creation of an independent state of Palestine within pre-1967 ceasefire lines in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, living peacefully alongside Israel.

The UN, the Arab League, the European Union, Russia, Australia, and, until last week, the US routinely restate their commitment to the concept.