With a joint declaration of cooperation, visits with government officials on both political sides, and even a Sabbath meal with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, it looks like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first visit to Australia was a good one. He certainly believes it was.
Netanyahu called the visit “wonderful” in comments with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in a video posted to Twitter by Israeli spokesman Ofir Gendelman. In another tweet on Gendelman’s feed, the spokesman called the visit “very successful.” Israel and Australia issued a joint declaration that promised cooperation in fields ranging from energy to defense, and Netanyahu had a chance to make his point on two topics vital to Israel: Iran and the Middle East peace process.
According to an Israeli readout of his visit with Bishop, Netanyahu “explained the substantial dangers of the [Iranian] nuclear agreement and in Iran’s aggressive conduct in the region.” The readout said Netanyahu also cited Iran’s “support for terrorism and the continued development of its ballistic missile program.”
Those concerns look to be shared. In the joint statement issued by Prime Minister Turnbull and Netanyahu earlier in the week, the nations not only agreed that Iran “must fully implement its obligations” under UN Security Council resolutions, but also “expressed concern” about Iran’s missile program. The statement further noted concern about support for the Hezbollah terror group and the “threat Hezbollah poses to regional security.”
Separately, in Sunday’s talk with Foreign Minister Bishop, Netanyahu reiterated the comments he’s been making on the peace process with the Palestinians, In his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month, Netanyahu sought to redirect the discussion on the peace process from general support for two states—one for Israel and one for the Palestinians—to the actual hard work and details that need to be settled before peace can be achieved. On Sunday, Netanyahu noted the “difference between the concept of two states and the content and substance of two states.”
Earlier in the week, an Israeli press release addressing Netanyahu’s discussion with Australian political opposition leader and Member of Parliament Bill Shorten said the meeting covered regional issues, including concerns about Iran. Shorten’s response summarized the overall feel of Netanyahu’s first visit down under.
According to the readout, Shorten “emphasized the bipartisan nature of admiration for Israel in Australia and reiterated his support for Israel.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, February 26, 2017)