By Colin Packham
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull offered a staunch defense of Israel on Wednesday, criticizing the United Nations and vowing never to support “one-sided resolutions” calling for an end to Israeli settlement building on occupied land.
Turnbull welcomed Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday as the first Israeli prime minister to visit Australia and reiterated Australia’s support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
However, he also made it clear Australia would not support any resolutions such as the one approved by the United Nations Security Council in December calling for an end to Israeli settlement building on land occupied by Palestinians.
“My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticizing Israel of the kind recently adopted by the U.N Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state,” Turnbull wrote in an editorial in The Australian newspaper.
The U.N. resolution was approved in the final weeks of Barack Obama’s administration, which broke with a long tradition of shielding Israel diplomatically and chose not to wield its veto power.
“Australia has been courageously willing to puncture U.N. hypocrisy more than once,” Netanyahu said.
“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 after meeting Turnbull.
Israel has long pursued a policy of constructing Jewish settlements on territory it captured in a 1967 war with its Arab neighbors including the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
Most countries view such activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal and an obstacle to peace but Israel disagrees, citing a biblical connection to the land.
Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations has said the United States still supports a two-state solution to the conflict, although new U.S. President Donald Trump has also said he is open to new ways to achieve peace.
The two-state solution has long been the bedrock of the international community’s policy for a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians but Trump’s apparent loosening of that main tenet, at a joint news conference with Netanyahu last week, stunned the international community.
“We support an outcome which has two states where Israelis, the Israeli people, the Palestinian people live side-by-side as a result of direct negotiations between them,” Turnbull told reporters in Sydney.
Netanyahu said any solution would need Palestine to recognize Israel, which would also have security control of the territories.
While in Australia, Netanyahu is scheduled to sign agreements fostering closer economic and defense cooperation.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Paul Tait)