Turnbull welcomes Israeli PM to Australia

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has had a speedy cruise on Sydney Harbour ahead of talks with his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull.


Mr Netanyahu flew into Sydney from Singapore early on Wednesday morning for a four-day visit, the first official trip to Australia by a sitting Israeli prime minister.

Mr Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu boarded a large white cruiser near the Opera House shortly before 10.30am and sped across the harbour with a police escort to Admiralty House, where he was greeted at the wharf by Mr Turnbull and wife Lucy Turnbull.

Security was tight with police boats patrolling the harbour around Admiralty House at Kirribilli as a police helicopter hovered overhead.

A 19-gun salute rang out as Mr Netanyahu and his wife disembarked their boat.

An Australian Naval band played as the leaders walked through the gardens of Admiralty House towards a small waiting delegation of government officials from both countries

Mr Netanyahu stood alone on a small black Dias on the manicured lawn outside Admiralty House while Israel’s national anthem played before inspecting the Federation Guard lined up in front of him.

He was then introduced by Mr Turnbull to a small delegation of government officials including NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, and the Israeli leader did likewise for Mr Turnbull so he could shake hands with a group of Israeli officials.

The leaders and their wives then strolled along the lower balconies of the historic sandstone residence before Mr Netanyahu and his wife were greeted at the front door by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and his wife Lady Lynne Cosgrove.

Sir Peter invited Mr Netanyahu to sign the visitors book in the drawing room as their wives discussed the stunning harbour views outside.

Mr Netanyahu expressed his gratitude to Sir Peter for Australia’s efforts in liberating Beersheba during World War I, while his wife noted it would be the battle’s 100th anniversary later this year.

As Mrs Netanyahu took her turn to sign the book, her husband said to Sir Peter “this is magnificent”.

After posing for photos, Sir Peter and Mr Netanyahu retired to some couches for relaxed talks with four Israeli and three Australian officials.

Their talks are expected to last 20 minutes before Mr Netanyahu begins bilateral discussions with Mr Turnbull in Admiralty House’s dining room.

The leaders will hold a joint press conference at nearby Kirribilli House at 1pm (AEDT).

High on the list of discussion topics is likely to be whether Israel remains committed to a two-state solution to resolve the Palestinian conflict and if Mr Netanyahu will heed US President Donald Trump’s call to ‘pull back’ on settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.

Mr Netanyahu and Mr Turnbull will sign agreements on technology and air services as well as discuss expanding co-operation in areas including cyber-security, innovation and science.

Mr Netanyahu is the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Australia.

Mr Turnbull used Mr Netanyahu’s arrival to launch a strong attack on the United Nations, which last December condemned as illegal Israel’s settlement expansion in occupied territories on the West Bank.

Mr Turnbull accused the UN of being prejudiced against Israel.

“My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticising Israel of the kind recently adopted by the Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state,” he wrote in The Australian.