Prominent Australians oppose Netanyahu's visit

Canberra, Feb 20: A group of over 60 prominent Australians have opposed the upcoming visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in protest of his policies towards Palestine, a media report said on Monday.

Netanyahu will begin his five-day trip to Australia on Wednesday, marking the first visit to the country by a sitting Israeli Prime Minister.

"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...," Efe news quoted a statement issued by them said. 

The statement by Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, signed by former politicians, religious and legal experts, denounced Netanyahu's policies citing the demolition of Palestinian homes and illegal settlement building among other issues.

Among the signatories are Australia's former Attorney General Gavan Griffith, human rights lawyer and advocate Julian Burnside, and labour politicians Laurie Ferguson, Melissa Parke, Alan Griffin and Jill Hall.

The visit has also sparked criticism from former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who said he feared the "death of an independent Palestinian state", which could lead to the "re-radicalisation" of its people.

"The time has come for Australia to join countries like Sweden and the Holy See in formally recognising the Palestinian state," he added.

Netanyahu's arrival is expected to be met with protests in cities including Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

Israel has among its allies the conservative government of Australia led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who criticised the UN Security Council resolution in 2016, which condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu's visit comes after the Israeli parliament passed a law to legalise some 4,000 houses built on Palestinians' privately owned land in the West Bank.

It also comes after US President Donald Trump suggested following a meeting with Netanyahu that peace could be achieved through a one-state rather than two-state solution.