Israeli prime minister meets Australian opposition leader

24.02.2017

Australia's opposition leader Bill Shorten said he raised his Labour Party's concerns about Israel's settlements in Palestinian territories during discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday. The pair talked for almost an hour in Sydney on the third day of the first Australian visit by a serving Israeli prime minister.

Shorten and three Labour colleagues reiterated the centre-left party's support for a two-state solution to Israel's conflict with the Palestinians.

"We want to see Israel safe and secure of its borders; we support the rights of the Palestinians people to have their own state," Shorten told reporters after the meeting. "We expressed the view very clearly and unambiguously that where settlements and their expansion are a road block to peace, that's damaging to the peace process," he said.

Labour elders frustrated by the lack of progress in finding a two-party solution have called on the party to adopt a policy of recognising the state of Palestine.

Former Labour prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Bob Hawke, as well as former foreign ministers Gareth Evans and Bob Carr, want Australia to join 137 countries in giving diplomatic recognition to an independent Palestine.

On his first day in Australia on Wednesday, Netanyahu challenged Rudd and Hawke to explain whether they would support a Palestine that did not recognise Israel's right to exist.

"I ask both former prime ministers to ask a simple question: 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?" Netanyahu said.

Rudd, who was prime minister until a conservative coalition was elected in 2013, replied that the boundaries, internal security, external security, public finance and governance of a Palestinian state have been elaborated in detail in multiple negotiations with U.S. administrations.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also supports a two-state solution, but said the Palestinians must also be prepared to come to the negotiating table.    (AP)

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