Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull broke with much of the international community on Friday, attacking last week’s United Nations Security Council Resolution as “one-sided” and “deeply unsettling.”
Turnbull, speaking at a menorah-lighting ceremony at Sydney’s Central Synagogue, said that “Australia stands with Israel. We support Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East,” The Australian Jewish News reported.
Turnbull’s comments come after his foreign minister said Thursday Australia would likely have voted against United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlements.
The resolution determined that Israel’s establishment of settlements anywhere outside the pre-1967 lines “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” The resolution did not distinguish between the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
On Thursday, the British government, which voted for the resolution, criticized US Secretary of State John Kerry’s subsequent speech for focusing on Israeli settlements and commenting negatively on the makeup of the Israeli cabinet. A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said it was inappropriate of Kerry to attack the makeup of the democratically elected Israeli government. “We do not … believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex,” the spokesman said. “And we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally.” The British government, the spokesman added, “believes that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties supported by the international community.”
The Australian leader affirmed his country’s support for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, which he said could only come about through direct negotiations between the parties, a stance Israel has repeatedly put forward.
“We support a peaceful resolution of the disputes between Israel and the Palestinians,” he said, according to The Australian Jewish News. “We support a two-state solution just as the government of Israel does.” But he said that any deal “can only be negotiated between the parties.”
However, he told worshipers at the candle-lighting that such a deal would not come as the result of UN involvement. “It is not assisted by one-sided resolutions made at the councils of the United Nations or anywhere else,” he said, “and that is why Australia has not, and does not, support one-sided resolutions.”
Turnbull emphasized Australia’s support for Israel. “Above all, we stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel in the fight against terrorists,” he said.
The prime minster’s comments follow Thursday’s announcement by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who said that Australia would likely have voted against the UN resolution.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Bishop stressed that Canberra is not currently a member of the Security Council and therefore could not vote on the resolution. However, she added, “in voting at the UN, the Coalition government has consistently not supported one-sided resolutions targeting Israel.”
Bishop, known to be a staunch supporter of Israel, urged both Israelis and Palestinians to refrain from steps that damage the prospect for peace and to “resume direct negotiations for a two-state solution as soon as possible.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to visit Australia in the next few months.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.