Australia's Prime Minister Reaffirms Support for Palestinian Statehood as Trump Bucks Two-state Solution

Malcolm Turnbull's comments come less than a day after Trump seemed to back away from a firm U.S. commitment to a Palestinian state if the parties to the conflict support other approaches.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull prepares to speak at the National Press Club in Canberra, Australia, February 1, 2017.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull prepares to speak at the National Press Club in Canberra, Australia, February 1, 2017. STRINGER/REUTERS

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has reaffirmed his country's support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Sky News Australia news channel reported Thursday, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump appeared to retreat from America's longstanding support for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. 

At a joint news conference at the White House on Wednesday with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump said: "So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.  I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.  I can live with either one."

For his part, however, the Australian prime minister told Sky News: "Our position has not changed. There should be a two-state solution negotiated with Israel and the Palestinian Authority." Sky also reported, however, that Turnbull refused to relate specifically to Trump's comments at the news conference, saying he does not "run a commentary" on American politics.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told Sky News her country would support other arrangements if it has the support of Israel and the Palestinians. "'If they can come up with another solution that they were prepared to live with that ensured that the Israelis and the Palestinians could live side by side, live together behind internationally recognized boundaries then of course the world should support that," she told Sky. "What we need is for the Palestinians to recognize that the State of Israel exists and will continue to exist."

The Australian prime minister's initial contact with President Trump in a phone call late last month was highly acrimonious, according to the Washington Post, with the friction centering around an American commitment by Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, to take in 1,250 refugees currently in Australia.

The Washington Post reported that the telephone conversation with Turnbull had been expected to last an hour but that Trump cut it short to 25 minutes. Trump reportedly also told Turnbull in the course of the call that the telephone conversation with the Australian leader was the fifth of the day for the American president and that "this was the worst call by far.”