Sydney, Feb 22 (IANS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived here on Wednesday amid controversy over his policies towards Palestine.
The four-day official visit to Australia is the first by a sitting Prime Minister of Israel, EFE news reported.
“We admire Australia, we embrace Australia and this visit will enable us to bring our countries even closer,” Netanyahu told the media after arriving at the airport.
Security has been tightened here in the face of planned demonstrations against his visit and Israeli policies.
Netanyahu will discuss with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull issues such as the creation of two states as a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
He is also expected to sign bilateral agreements on technology research and air services and explore further cooperation in areas such as cybersecurity, innovation and science.
Israel considers Australia’s conservative government an ally, as it has recently criticised the UN Security Council resolution condemning the country’s settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.
Turnbull has welcomed Netanyahu and reiterated his criticism of the UN for its recent resolution condemning Israel, while reaffirming that his government defends the creation of two states to resolve the Middle East conflict.
In contrast, 60 prominent Australian personalities, including former Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers, signed a statement this week denouncing Israel’s failure to comply with the UN demands to stop illegal settlements and its treatment of the Palestinian population.
Netanyahu’s visit comes after the Israeli parliament passed a law to legalise about 4,000 houses built on Palestinian land in West Bank settlements.
It also comes as US President Donald Trump after meeting the Israeli Prime Minister said peace in the Middle East does not necessarily lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.
Following these statements, the UN reiterated its stance supporting the creation of two states as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a position also supported by Australia.