Israel's Prime Minister Thinks The Whole Settlements Controversy Is "Way Overblown"
During the first ever Australian visit from an Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Malcolm Turnbull for standing up to the United Nations over settlements.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has shrugged off questions surrounding the continued building of settlements on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, saying the issue was "way overblown".
Earlier this month Israel's parliament passed a controversial law which retrospectively legalised almost 4,000 homes built on privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank.
Speaking in Australia to reporters, Netanyahu said the country's approach to the issue was far from being a barrier to peace with Palestinians.
"Let me just say that I think the settlements issue is way overblown. It is an issue, but it is not the issue. The core of the conflict between us and the Palestinians is their persistent refusal to recognise a Jewish state in any boundary. Once they recognise the permanence of Israel and the right of Israel to be there as the nation state of the Jewish people, in our ancestral homeland, once that happens, everything else will fall in place."
Netanyahu flew into the country this morning with his wife Sara.
His visit has highlighted a divide within the Labor opposition on Israeli policy. In recent days former ALP prime ministers Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd have called for the recognition of a Palestinian state. Party leader Bill Shorten wouldn't commit to calling for the recognition of Palestine, but said he would discuss the settlement issue with Netanyahu this week.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull used an op-ed for The Australian to lavish praise on Netanyahu and Israel, describing the country as a "miraculous nation" and condemning the recent UN Security Council resolution criticising Israel's settlements.
"My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticising Israel of the kind recently adopted by the UN Security Council, and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state," Turnbull wrote.
Netanyahu was "delighted" to read the newspaper this morning.
"Australia has been courageously willing to puncture UN 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."