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Australia underlines support for two-state solution as Benjamin Netanyahu makes historic visit – Israel News

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull..
(photo credit:REUTERS)

SYDNEY– Australia rolled out a warm, red-carpet, 21-gun-salute welcome Wednesday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the first ever sitting prime minister to visit this country whose friendship toward Israel and the Zionist cause dates back a century.

Using words like “miracle” and “envy of the world” to describe Israel, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull greeted Netanyahu and his wife Sara on the lush lawns of Admiralty House in Sydney, the residence of Australia’s Governor-General.

With the beautiful backdrop of the harbor and the iconic Sydney Opera House in sight, an honor guard greeted Netanyahu and Turnbull and played the Israeli anthem Hatikva twice.

Australian PM criticises UN as Netanyahu arrives for state visit

The warmth of Turnbull’s reception was not relegated to the ceremonious welcome, as the Australian prime minister also penned an op-ed in Wednesday’s edition of The Australian under the headline, “Israeli PM visit cements a warm, old friendship.”

An excerpt from the strongly pro-Israel piece appeared as well on the paper’s front page, titled “Turnbull blasts UN over vote on Israel.”

“My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticizing Israel of the kind recently adopted by the UN Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimize the Jewish state,” he wrote.

Turnbull echoed these sentiments during the two public appearances he had with Netanyahu in the first eight hours of his arrival — at a press conference following an initial 90-minute meeting, and at a large event with some 400 Israeli and Australian business people.

At the press conference Turnbull reiterated Australia’s long-standing support for a two-state solution, but said that it must come as a result of direct negotiations. At the same time, the prime minister said Israel cannot be expected to put its security at risk, and that the first duty of any prime minister — both himself and Netanyahu included — is the security of his people.

Speaking about a possible resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Netanyahu said that Israel wants the Palestinians to have all the power to govern themselves, but not the military of physical power to threaten it. The question of a Palestinian state, he said, repeating his statement from last week’s visit to Washington, was not over “labels,” but rather over substance.

The premier added that a Palestinian state must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and that Israel must retain final security control over the territory west of the Jordan River.

Both Netanyahu and Turnbull were each asked what could have been perceived as embarrassing questions: Netanyahu was asked about his relationship with Australian billionaire Packer whose name has been tied to one of the affairs for which he is under investigation, and Turnbull was asked about the now famously difficult first telephone conversation he had with US President Donald Trump.

Netanyahu said that he was not at all concerned about the investigation into his relationship with Packer, and he repeated in English the Hebrew mantra he has been using since the affairs first broke: “I think nothing will come of it because there is nothing there, except friendship, which is a good thing.”

Regarding the phone call with Trump, Turnbull chuckled when asked whether Netanyahu might help repair the relationship between the US and Australia after that call.

“You really shouldn’t believe everything you read in the newspapers,” he said of the infamous call, about which it was reported that Trump allegedly hung up on Turnbull.

“That is absolutely not true,” he said, adding that the call was courteous,  “frank and forthright,” and ended with Turnbull thanking Trump for “his commitment to the arrangements [regarding taking in refugees} that had been entered into by his predecessor.”

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