SYDNEY • Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday offered a staunch defence of Israel, criticising the United Nations and vowing never to support "one-sided resolutions" calling for an end to Israeli settlement building on occupied land.
Mr Turnbull welcomed Mr Benjamin Netanyahu as the first Israeli premier to visit Australia and reiterated support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
But he also made it clear that Australia would not support any resolutions like the one approved by the UN 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 criticising Israel of the kind recently adopted by the UN Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state," he wrote in an editorial in The Australian newspaper.
The UN resolution was approved in the final weeks of US President 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 UN hypocrisy more than once," Mr Netanyahu said, after meeting Mr Turnbull. "The UN 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."
Israel has long pursued a policy of building settlements on territory it captured in a 1967 war with its Arab neighbours, 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.
The US ambassador to the UN has said Washington still supports a two-state solution to the conflict, although new US 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. However, Mr Trump's apparent loosening of that main tenet, at a joint news conference with Mr Netanyahu last week, stunned the international community.
Meanwhile, Mr Turnbull told reporters in Sydney: "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."
Mr Netanyahu said any solution would need Palestine to recognise Israel, which would also have security control of the territories.
During his four-day visit to Australia, Mr Netanyahu is scheduled to sign agreements fostering closer economic and defence cooperation.
The trip is not without controversy. Sixty notable Australians, including political, religious, cultural and business figures, have signed a letter opposing Mr Netanyahu's visit because of his government's policies toward the Palestinians.
Small groups of protesters have also demonstrated in Melbourne and Canberra against the visit.