Danby blasts former Labor PMs over Israel

A federal Jewish Labor MP has delivered a stinging rebuke to senior figures in his own party who have called for recognition of a Palestinian state ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Australia.

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Michael Danby, the MP for the Victorian seat of Melbourne Ports, slapped down calls from former prime minister Kevin Rudd and others in recent days for the immediate recognition of Palestine.

“Where is Bob Carr, Gareth Evans and Bob Hawke when the terrible things that are happening in Tibet are discussed? They never raise their heads,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.

“They want to try and provoke the Israeli prime minister and upset relations between him and the Labor Party prior to Netanyahu’s visit.”

Mr Danby said direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine were the way to a viable two-state solution.

“We can’t dictate where the borders will be from Australia (or) the United Nations – it’s got to be decided between the parties,” he said.

“I don’t think we should hyperventilate about this issue. There are more important issues of foreign policies.”

The backbencher berated those “heroes” who he said were “beating up on” Israel while letting China off the hook for the oppression of the Tibetans and Uyghurs.

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said she and leader Bill Shorten would voice support for a two-state solution when they meet with Mr Netanyahu on Friday, but cautioned against abandoning her party’s policy on the issue.

Labor supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but only commits the party in government to “discuss joining like-minded nations” in recognising a Palestinian state if there is no progress in peace talks.

“A just and fair two-state solution is the only pathway to peace and security for both the Palestinians and the Israelis,” she said, adding expanding Israeli settlements were a roadblock to achieving the outcome.

Mr Netanyahu and wife Sara will arrived in Sydney on Wednesday, marking the first visit to Australia by a sitting Israeli prime minister.

About 50 people gathered outside the Israeli embassy in Canberra on Monday to protest the visit, with similar rallies expected in Melbourne and Sydney this week amid tight security.

More than 60 prominent Australians, including former Labor politicians, senior legal professionals and clergy, have signed a statement opposing Mr Netanyahu’s visit because of his government’s policies towards Palestinians.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the friendship between Israel and Australia dated back to the establishment of Israel in 1948.

He and Mr Netanyahu are set to sign agreements on technology and air services.