Albanese must call Netanyahu, send Wong to Israel: opposition

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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed he has not spoken with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in the fortnight since Hamas’ murderous attack in Gaza, as the federal opposition urged Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong to travel to Israel to display Australia’s support for its Middle East partner.

Albanese said on Tuesday he had not had a phone call with Netanyahu, and has no plans currently to visit Israel like other world leaders.

The opposition has suggested that Foreign Minister Penny Wong travel to Israel.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

At a press conference in Washington ahead of a state dinner at the White House, Albanese said Australia had picked “a side against Hamas”.

French President Emmanuel Macron is the latest world leader to visit Israel after the attacks, following UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni and US President Joe Biden.

Opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson condemned Albanese for not having spoken with Netanyahu, doubling down on opposition criticisms of Labor’s allegedly meek response to the war.

“Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken to dozens and dozens of world leaders. It wouldn’t be an accident that they’ve not spoken and the prime minister and the government has provided no explanation for why that’s the case,” Paterson told this masthead.

Opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson.Credit: Rhett Wyman

“If the prime minister can’t go to Israel because he’s too busy or he can’t fit in with all his international travel, that’s the job of the foreign minister [Penny Wong].”

“We’ve seen countries like Italy, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the European Union all represented, they’ve all had attendees go at the highest level. I can’t understand why Australia doesn’t see it has equal interest.”

Asked on Tuesday morning if he had spoken to Netanyahu, Albanese said: “No, I have spoken to the Israeli ambassador to Australia on a couple of occasions.”

“And the views that I’ve put are consistent with the resolution that was carried by the parliament. We remain absolutely horrified by the Hamas attacks on Israel. These are abhorrent acts of terror against innocent civilians.”

US President Joe Biden has ordered the deployment of more forces in the Middle East.Credit: AP

Wong has spoken to the Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen since the attack and met with Israeli ambassador to Australia Amir Maimon.

A government spokesperson said: “Australia is in close contact with the Israeli government”.

“The Israeli government is in no doubt of Australia’s steadfast support for Israel’s right to defend itself, just as they know Australia is united with the international community in our call for Israel to operate by the rules of war, and in calling for civilian life to be protected.“

On Tuesday afternoon, Wong posted on X that she was “appalled by reports of arson at Adelaide mosques this week.”

Seven is reporting that there have been two reports of arson at Adelaide mosques in the last week.

Paterson said Albanese had been slow to respond to the initial outbreak of violence and argued Wong misread the gravity of the unfolding tragedy when she called for “restraint” in the immediate aftermath of Hamas’ actions.

“That’s not what we said after September 11. That’s not what we said after the rise of the Caliphate,” he said.

Paterson added that Israel should conduct its military response in the manner expected of liberal democracies, as it prepares for a likely ground invasion that will only contribute to a Gazan death toll that Hamas claims now tops 5000.

Israel’s ambassador to Australia, Amir MaimonCredit: Alex Ellinghausen

“But we also absolutely understand why they need to do what they’re doing right now against Hamas,” Paterson said.

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