Australian politics

Hostile reception awaits Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of landmark visit to Australia

Prominent Australians have signed joint statement fiercely critical of Israeli government’s policies towards Palestinians and building of settlements

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 February, 2017, 7:39pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 February, 2017, 10:31pm

Business and religious leaders, lawyers, academics, entertainers and former politicians have joined forces to oppose Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Australia, saying his policies “provoke, intimidate and oppress” the Palestinian people and are pushing the Middle East further from peace.

Netanyahu plans to visit just weeks after his government passed a controversial law retroactively legalising 4000 settlers’ homes built on privately owned Palestinian land. The measure has drawn international condemnation and reignited debate about Australia’s approach to Israel.

Last week, US President Donald Trump upended decades of policy on Israel-­Palestine by suggesting peace could be achieved through a one-state rather than two-state solution.

Netanyahu will meet Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, ­Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and other leaders during his four-day visit – the first by a serving ­Israeli prime minister since the state was formed in 1948 – starting on Wednesday.

These policies are inconsistent with Australian values and beliefs and we should not welcome him here
Joint statement

But 60 prominent Australians – including businesswoman Janet Holmes à Court, former Federal Court judge Murray Wilcox, retired Anglican bishop George Browning and Harry Potter actress Miriam Margolyes – have ­released a joint statement saying Netanyahu’s policies contravene international law.

“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. “These policies are inconsistent with Australian values and beliefs and we should not welcome him here.”

The letter said his government’s policies “build understandable resentment, anger and desperation amongst Palestinians” and called on the Turnbull government to “rethink its one-sided support” for Netanyahu.

The Coalition under both Turnbull and has predecessor Tony Abbott has been a strong supporter of Israel. The government last year criticised a UN Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with Turnbull describing it as “deeply unsettling”.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop indicated the government would have split with the US and New Zealand to vote against the reso­lution, if it currently had a seat on the UN Security Council. New Zealand’s support for the resolution drew a furious diplomatic response from Israel, which recalled its ambassador.