JOHN TULLOH. What will Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop say to Benjamin Netanyahu?

     It would be intriguing to know the position Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop intend to adopt in talks when the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, visits Australia this week. It comes a week after Netanyahu had startling discussions with Donald Trump. The neophyte US leader on the Palestinian question did not seem too bothered what happened as long as both sides could reach ‘a deal’. Two-state, one-state, whatever! The two sides should work it out, he said, or perhaps get some of the friendlier Arab states involved, eh?  

Australia has been a staunch supporter of Israel and generally endorsed the US line when it comes to a peace settlement. Ever since the Clinton administration in the 90s, that has been the two-state proposal. Canberra’s line as recently as last week was, as reported by the Jerusalem Post, ‘The most important priority must be a resumption of direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians for a two-state solution as soon as possible’.

This is a vacuous statement when for two decades talks have gone nowhere and both sides long ago have made a point of ignoring their respective preconditions. For the Palestinians, the major one is the suspension of new Jewish settlements in the West Bank. But in the month since Trump’s inauguration no less than 6000 new homes have been approved with Netanyahu’s support and just a minor tut-tut from the Oval Office. For the Israelis, the Palestinians refuse even to consider the very idea of recognising their right to exist in order to achieve a solution nearly 50 years on since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Instead they prefer to demonise Israel.

Many were astonished at Trump’s crude suggestions. The Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent observed that ‘Trump’s indifference to a one-state or two-state solution demonstrated a shocking lack of understanding of what a one-state would entail – not least for Israel as a Jewish democratic state’. Given the Palestinian birth rate, the Jews would find themselves outnumbered within a few years.

Daoud Kuttab, a leading Palestinian journalist and former professor of journalism at Princeton University, said that without the commitment of a two-state agreement  it ‘virtually means a permanent presence of Israeli troops within the entire Palestinian territory’. In a column for Al Jazeera, he wrote: ‘Netanyahu and Trump’s approach to the issue is pushing the region towards a more blatant and legalised form of apartheid in which the Palestinian majority in the occupied territories is stripped of their political rights while the Jewish settlers enjoy full political and national rights’.

New Israel Fund Australia, which describes itself as a loyal supporter of Israel and is dedicated to social justice there, has some advice for Netanyahu. It calls for bold leadership to adhere to the principles proclaimed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948. That is, ‘to be a country “based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel” which ensures “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex”.’

Israel’s founders may have had second thoughts about that clause if they could have foreseen the expansion of territory and Arab population newly under their control in 1967 when threats from Arab neighbours precipitated the Six-Day War. But the last thing Netanyahu probably will want to discuss is anything to do with the West Bank. Like Turnbull, he is at the mercy of his right-wing government colleagues. His bête noire is Iran and appears to have convinced Washington it is theirs also (once more). But it is not ours. Iran is no threat to Australia. Canberra has strong trade links with Tehran with even better food export prospects following the easing of UN sanctions last year.

Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop would be well advised to stay away from Middle East politics. Unlike playing our part in the Asian neighbourhood, Australia’s security has everything to lose by getting any further involved than we are already. But we have much to gain if we can learn from Israel’s flourishing and creative hi-tech sector and its clever ways of converting arid areas into productive food crops.

Despite Donald Trump’s campaign promise to make ‘the ultimate deal’, the very idea of an Israeli/Palestinian peace settlement is rapidly becoming a mirage and even that will fade altogether before too long.

FOOTNOTE. Netanyahu’s visit is the first-ever by an Israeli leader to Australia. Later this year is the centenary of the liberation of Jerusalem from the Ottomans after nearly 400 years of occupation. The British-led military liberators included Australian light horsemen, some of whom are buried in the Mount of Olives. Paul Daley in his book Beersheba quotes Henry Gullett, the official Australian war historian: ‘The world-wide dream of having a Jewish nation established once more in Palestine, which for nearly 2000 years sustained their scattered race, seemed already a reality; and in their joy they showered hospitality upon the staff officers billeted in their houses and upon the troops encamped on the surrounding hills’.

John Tulloh had a 40-year career in foreign news, including covering the Six-Day War.

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7 Responses to JOHN TULLOH. What will Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop say to Benjamin Netanyahu?

  1. rumtytum says:

    In March 2014, Haaretz said: ” Netanyahu’s new “Jewish state” mantra negates the fact that Palestinians recognized Israel more than twenty years ago. They’re still waiting for Israel to recognize Palestine.”

  2. Ronald Mackinnon says:

    Although one does not deny the Zionist aspiration for a Jewish state the Ashkenazim claim of an ancestral right of return in reference to West Bank Settlements is indeed doubtful following maternal mitochondrial sequencing by Martin B.Richards of Huddersfield. In his thorough work “A substantial prehistoric European ancestry amongst Ashkenazi maternal Lineages”, Nature Communications 8th October 2013, he demonstrated that the great majority of Ashkenazi maternal lineages were not brought from the Levant as commonly supposed, nor recruited in the Caucasus as suggested, but assimilated from within Europe.

    • Jim KABLE says:

      Now this is something which basically cuts the legs off the argument for an ancestral homeland claimed by the Zionists – a false – if not knowingly falsely promoted – basis for the so-called modern Jewish State of Israel. Professor Richards and his team of researchers have done us a service. I have just checked out the references – and they are impressive. I have wondered over the past few years how a land full of northern Europeans – plus extras back from the US (and OZ) or from out of Russia – could be claiming it as their ancestral land – and wondering whether the so-called Christian world was at the same time bamboozled by the blond-haired and blue-eyed image of Jesus into assuming that the modern Israel was anciently of the same stuff!

  3. Jim KABLE says:

    When I wrote to my Federal Member asking that he not have anything to do with the visit of the criminal Bibi Netanyahu – he replied that he absolutely would not and would respond to any invitation to that man being invited into the Parliament as an act of provocation. At least some Federal Parliamentarians have the soul of justice on behalf of the dreadful things being done to Palestinians – communities and children by the Netanyahu government. In fact he should not be permitted entry into our country. And can we have an article on all the parliamentarians who have been given free trips/visits to Israel – all of them corrupted/compromised thereby!

  4. David Brown says:

    just an aside…
    it has been reasonably established that well established (fat and comfortable) societies that birth rate reduces… several countries around the world need or like Australia will shortly need immigration just to maintain their population

    the palestinians are oppressed in an genocidal Apartheid state with a fairly high birthrate, even counting all the kids killed, whereas Zionist Israel are the (relatively comfortable despite their claims to be terrorised) oppressors with a low birth rate

    if by a miracle an all-equal one state dreamed of by New Israel group then probably the birthrates would equalise

    which shows how self-defeating the Zionists are, wonder if we will all be dead when they are at last defeated?

  5. Peter Lynch says:

    Many people refer to a book written thousands of years ago as justification for Israel’s right to take over large chunks of Palestine. Sure the Jewish people came into these lands when Moses led them out of the desert to the land of milk and honey around 3,300 years ago. But the Bible makes it clear the land was not rightfully theirs. The true owners were the Caanites who were so brutally driven off their homeland by the Jews with the help of a vengeful god who was only interested in conquering his rival, Baal. There was no treaty, no compensation and no UN resolution. It was clearly an illegal act of war against a peace-loving people. I say the land should immediately be returned to the Caanites and the usurping Israelites driven back into the desert. You can’t argue with the Bible.

  6. Edward Fido says:

    In the world of realpolitik the Palestine question has been superseded by Israel’s latest concern: Iran. Bibi has taken the opportunity of his visit to advise us on this matter. The Middle East cauldron is one we need not dip into.

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