SYDNEY – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to hold a meeting Sunday morning with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who last week said there would be no peace if a Palestinian state was unilaterally foisted on Israel, before boarding his plane for a more than 20-hour return flight to Israel.
Bishop’s comments about a Palestinian state came during her visit to Washington as two former Australian prime ministers from the opposition Labor Party called on Australia to recognize a Palestinian state.
The meeting with Netanyahu comes shortly after she returned from a trip that took her to Great Britain and Ireland, in addition to meetings with US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Playing down the now notorious first phone call between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Bishop said the relations between the two countries were as close as ever.
Netanyahu met Friday with opposition leader Bill Shorten, whose party – as a result of Netanyahu’s visit – is publicly debating what its policy should be on Israel; while some Labor luminaries, such as former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Bob Hawke, are pushing a more pro-Palestinian policy, others on the party’s right flank, such as MPs Michael Danby and Mark Dreyfus, are pushing back.
The issue is expected to be debated at next year’s party conference.
Shorten delivered a strong pro-Israel speech Wednesday at a luncheon with Netanyahu, Turnbull and Israeli and Australian business people, and Netanyahu later told Israeli reporters of the importance of maintaining support for Israel among both of Australia’s main parties.
Following his meeting with Shorten, Netanyahu issued a statement saying the two discussed Iran, Syria and the Palestinian issue. According to Netanyahu, Shorten – whom he met less than two weeks ago in Israel – reiterated his support for Israel and said support for the Jewish state crossed both party lines.
Shorten issued a statement in which he conveyed his party’s opposition to settlement expansion.
“We believe in a two-state solution and we want to see Israel with safe and secure borders, but we also support the right of the Palestinian people to have their own state,” he said. “We expressed the view very clearly that where there are settlements and their expansion, they are a roadblock to peace.”
Shorten, at Wednesday’s luncheon, said his party certainly believes in a two-state solution, but also expects “the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel’s legitimate right to security. Of course we acknowledge the people of Palestine’s legitimate aspirations, for a state of their own. This will take leadership from both sides.”
In addition, he said: “We cannot be naive in Australia, we must acknowledge the impediment to peace that the intransigence of the Hamas leadership presents – and the divisions between them and the Palestinian Authority.”