Australians are known for their blunt, straightforward views. The Palestinian Authority (PA) can now confirm that piece of conventional wisdom after a visit by Aussie politicians to the West Bank ended in name-calling and abuse from PA representatives who called the bi-lateral exchange “explosive”.
The delegation from Canberra toured Ramallah on Sunday and was led by Mr Christopher Pyne, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science.
The delegates were visiting Jerusalem for two days as part of an annual Australia-UK-Israel leadership dialogue to discuss the challenges facing Israel and how attendees can best support the Jewish state.
Human Rights Commissioner Mr Tim Wilson was part of the group and he tweeted the image below to record the occasion.
A curious meeting with the Palestinian Education Minister this morning, after meeting with their Prime Minister … pic.twitter.com/PVmGOR9IsL
— Tim Wilson (@timwilsoncomau) December 13, 2015
Later he told ABC News Australia they “quizzed” the Palestinian Prime Minister and Education Minister about a range of topics.
Palestinian Education Minister Dr Sabri Saidam (pictured) has now described the meeting as “very explosive and very challenging” and said the Australians had asked “rude and blunt” questions.
“The delegation had false information and twisted facts,” Dr Saidam is quoted by the ABC. “So it was clear the delegation was not well educated.
“Obviously the delegation was under impressions, wrong impressions accumulated after the visit to Israel.
“Coming blindfolded to realities, bypassing the pain of Palestinians in terms of daily happenings is not going to solve the conflict.”
Dr Saidam said the group repeatedly asked questions about Palestinians naming schools and venues after people who had killed Israeli civilians.
“I said that one man’s hero is another man’s terrorist.”
Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently announced an innovation package worth over $1 billion that includes setting up a “landing pad” for Australian business people and entrepreneurs in Tel Aviv. It is part of Australia’s long-standing support for the state of Israel.
As part of the Australia-Israel-UK leadership dialogue, Mr Pyne and Attorney-General George Brandis met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend.
“We had a 45-minute chat which was scheduled for 30 minutes so he was obviously happy to be talking to us,” Mr Pyne said.
“Mr Netanyahu was one of the first people that Malcolm Turnbull rang after he become prime minister three months ago.”
Australia has been a staunch defender of the state of Israel and its right to exist since its foundation.