Professional Israel advocates in Australia often refer to Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at Bar Ilan University in 2009 as evidence of his – and Israel’s – support for a two-state solution. Sceptics on the other hand point to actions and inaction on Netanyahu’s watch that seem inconsistent with a sincere commitment to a two-state solution (for a few examples only, continued filling in and expansion of so-called settlement blocs by incorporation of so-called ‘neighbourhoods’; continuing financial, military and other assistance for illegal outposts which, as found by the Israeli government’s Sasson Report in 2005, and fully confirmed by the Levy Report in 2012, occurs with knowledge of all government authorities, from the prime minster and ministers down to the lowest enforcing agencies; retrospective legalisation of illegal outposts; steep increases in the population of settlers in the Palestinian Territories; the recent passage, with whip-discipline support from Netanyahu’s Likud party, of a law allowing expropriation of private Palestinian land that has been illegally occupied by settlers with any form of government assistance or encouragement; and recent calls by no less than eight ministers in Netanyahu’s government for annexation of some or all of the West Bank).
Netanyahu himself has since displayed ambivalence about the Bar Ilan speech and he avoided expressing support for a two-state solution when he met the UK prime mister Theresa May earlier this year and at his recent meeting with president Trump.
Sceptics will now also be able to point to the Joint Statement issued during his visit to Australia, in which Australia expresses support for a two-state solution but Israel tellingly does not. During that visit, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten expressed opposition to settlement activity that threatens a two state solution. It would be interesting to know whether PM Turnbull or any Australian Jewish communal leader questioned or challenged PM Netanyahu privately in any way about his professed commitment to a two-state solution and what they say about his refusal to support it in the Joint Statement. If friends of Israel who say they support a two-state solution do not speak up for it at times like this, what does their support mean?
EXCLUSIVE: If Bibi must visit then let’s ask him the tough questions February 11, 2017