JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began a four-day visit to Australia Wednesday, the first ever by a sitting prime minister.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reiterated his support for a two-state solution, calling on Israelis and Palestinians to pursue peace.
At a joint press conference with Turnbull in Sydney, Netanyahu asked what kind of state they had in mind. He was responding in part to former Australian premiers Kevin Rudd and Bob Hawke, who called for recognition of an independent Palestinian state.
"What kind of state will it be that they are advocating – a state that calls for Israel's destruction, a state whose territory will be used immediately for radical Islam?" he asked. The Palestinians, he said, should have all the freedom they need to govern themselves, "but not the freedom to destroy the Jewish state."
To his credit, Turnbull did not support U.N. Resolution 2334, which attempted to rewrite history by declaring the Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City Islamic.
"My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticizing Israel of the kind recently adopted by the Security Council," Turnbull said. "We deplore campaigns which are designed to delegitimize the Jewish state."
Turnbull called Australia a committed and consistent "all-weather" friend of Israel.
Netanyahu responded in kind.
"Australia has been courageously willing to puncture U.N. hypocrisy more than once, including this absurd resolution that said the Western Wall, the most sacred site for the Jewish people for thousands of years – thousands of years even before the rise of Islam – that this is occupied Palestinian territory," Netanyahu said at the press conference.
"So the U.N. is capable of many absurdities and I think it's important that you have straightforward and clear-eyed countries like Australia that often bring it back to Earth," he said.
During his four-day visit to the land down under, Turnbull said they will discuss expanding cooperation in cyber-security, innovation and science, agritech, energy, resources and the environment.