Controversy has erupted over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming state visit to Australia, with a number of influential Aussies including members of the legal fraternity, clergy and former politicians opposing the trip.
Netanyahu is due to touch down in Australia this week for meetings with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten. It will mark the first official visit of a serving Israeli Prime Minister to Australia.
But an open letter signed by numerous high-profile Australians opposes Netanyahu's visit because of his administration's policies towards Palestinians.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Australia opposed by 60 prominent locals - The Sydney Morning Herald https://t.co/vpE1bZmaPM— Australia Time (@Australiatime) February 19, 2017
Among the signatories are former ACT chief minister Jon Stanhope and ex-federal Labor parliamentarians Melissa Park, Laurie Ferguson, Alan Griffin and Jill Hall. It also includes the former solicitor general Gavan Griffith, lawyer Julian Burnside and businesswoman Janet Holmes à Court
"We strongly oppose the official visit to Australia of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu," they write in the letter.
"The Australian Government needs to rethink its one-sided support for the Israeli Government.
"Israel continues to defy all United Nations calls for it to comply with international law in respect of its illegal settlement building, and its treatment of the indigenous Palestinian population."
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Australia visit will be marked by protests and controversy.https://t.co/Wx9akndONR— SBS News (@SBSNews) February 19, 2017
The signatories write that it is time for the suffering of the Palestinian people to stop and for "Australia to take a more balanced role in supporting the application of international law and not supporting Mr Netanyahu and his policies".
Netanyahu's visit comes after he earlier this month met with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Protests against Netanyahu's visit are said to be scheduled for Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney after he touches down on Wednesday.
Speaking on Monday, Jamie Hyams from the Australia Israel and Jewish Affairs Council labelled the petition against Netanyahu's visit as disappointing.
Hyams told the ABC that the letter ignored that Israel took the West Bank in a defensive war in 1967 and then offered to return most of the land, and has made "three generous peace offers since then".
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said he supported a two-state solution related to Israel and Palestine, but opposed the building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.
"Labor has long supported a two-State solution," Shorten told reporters.
"We support the right of both Palestinians and Israelis to live within secure borders. Where there is an obstacle to two-state solutions should be blocked. The settlements are a roadblock to the two-state solution."
The release of the open letter follows a call from former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to formally recognise Palestine.
Rudd told Fairfax Media his "deepest fear" was the potential for Palestine to disintegrate, which he believed would heigten the risk of radicalisation in the Middle East
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