Thursday, 23 February 2017

Former Australian PM Criticises Netanyahu Over Middle East Peace Plans


Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has lashed the Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him of being a barrier to peace and sabotaging negotiations for a settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Speaking as he became the first Israeli prime minister to visit Australia, Netanyahu criticised Rudd and his Labor predecessor Bob Hawke for saying that Australia should formally recognise a Palestinian state, as both Sweden and the Holy See have done.

Netanyahu asked “what kind of state” the two former leaders were advocating.

But Rudd, now president of the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York, used Facebook to respond.

“I have a simple reply to Mr Netanyahu: The boundaries, internal security, external security, public finance and governance of a Palestinian state have been elaborated in detail in multiple negotiations with the US under the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, most recently in the Kerry Plan.

“Mr Netanyahu knows these formulations like the back of his hand. Mr Netanyahu also knows he has torpedoed each of them, often at five minutes to midnight, often by changing the goalposts, to the enduring frustration of both Republican and Democrat administrations.”

Rudd said support for the state of Israel did not mandate automatic support for all policies of Netanyahu.

“That is why I beg to differ on this and other aspects of Mr Netanyahu’s policies.”

Rudd also returned to a unresolved strain on the Australia-Israel relationship during his premiership.

In 2010, Israeli Mossad agents allegedly used fake passports – including several Australian ones, reportedly manufactured in a Mossad passport “factory” – to smuggle its assassins into Dubai, where they suffocated militant Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in a hotel room.

Australia expelled a senior Israeli diplomat from the country after saying there was “no doubt... Israel was responsible for the counterfeiting and cloning of those passports”.

Australia said it was aware Israel had forged Australian passports on previous occasions as well.

“Will he [Netanyahu, who was prime minister at the time] use this visit to Australia to apologise to the Australian people for his government using forged Australian passports to facilitate an Israeli assassination of a member of Hamas in Dubai?” Rudd asked.

“No apology has ever been received for that action which had the consequence of putting the integrity of Australian passports and the security of Australian passport holders travelling to the Middle East at risk.”

Netanyahu is the first incumbent Israeli leader to visit Australia. Following a meeting and press conference with current Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and a lunch in central Sydney on Wednesday, he spent the afternoon at the Central Synagogue in Bondi.

He has further meetings with members of Sydney’s Jewish community on Thursday, as well as with government leaders and parliamentarians.

He will meet with NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, as well as Rudd’s successor, current Labor leader Bill Shorten.



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