Palestinian Education Minister Dr Sabri Saidam described the meeting as “very explosive and very challenging” and said the group had asked “rude and blunt” questions.
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An Australian-led delegation to the West Bank featuring Minister Christopher Pyne, former speaker Bronwyn Bishop, Labor MP Tim Watts and Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson has been criticised by a minister in the Palestinian Authority, who said the group had “false information” and were “not well educated”.
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Mr Pyne, the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, led the delegation — which also included British MPs — to Ramallah on Sunday.
All 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.
Mr Wilson said the group “quizzed” the Palestinian Prime Minister and Education Minister about a range of topics.
“The delegation had false information and twisted facts,” Dr Saidam told the ABC.
“So it was clear the delegation was not well educated.
“Well educated” obviously means parroting Pali grievances and denouncing Israel for defending itself. (SY)
“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.”
When asked about Dr Saidam’s comments, Mr Pyne said he believed he was very diplomatic, but admitted that some members of the delegation were potentially “too robust”.
“I very diplomatically asked the Prime Minister and the Higher Education Minister questions which I thought would be useful for understanding the Palestinian attitudes to the peace process,” Mr Pyne told the ABC.
“Other members of the dialogue were slightly more robust and could be accused of quizzing them.
“I didn’t quiz anyone.”
Mr Pyne appeared to blame the British delegates for the controversy, but the Palestinians are adamant it was the Australians.
Dr Saidam said, despite the atmosphere, he welcomed the visit because he thought it was important to “clarify facts”.
“There has been a lot of complaints on the Palestinian side that the government of Australia was not that sympathetic with the Palestinians,” he said.
“I thought the Minister of Innovation would come with innovative ideas, (jiziya$$$$) but instead he came with a list of complaints.”
Pyne launches ‘landing pad’ for Australian start-ups in Israel
In his seventh trip to Israel since becoming an MP, Mr Pyne today announced a new initiative called a ‘landing pad’ that will help Australian start-ups get a foot in the door to the Israeli tech industry.
Mr Pyne, the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, was warmly welcomed by the crowd when he hosted a lunch for business and tech leaders at the Hilton in Tel Aviv.
As part of the Australia-Israel-UK leadership dialogue, he and Attorney-General George Brandis met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“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.”
Senator Brandis gave the keynote address to the opening session of the dialogue.
“We have a lot of common issues. A lot of common problems,” he said.
“Particularly in this age of networked global terrorism. Israelis had had to put up with terrorism as long as there has been a state of Israel. For Australians it’s a very new phenomenon.”
Mr Pyne said he felt the relationship between Australia and Israel was about to move to what he called a “turbo-charged” level.
“Australia and Israel have a very, very long-standing and good relationship, a genuinely good relationship,” he said.
Brandis rejects criticism over status of East Jerusalem
The Attorney-General caused a stir last year when he said the Australian Government should no longer refer to Palestinian East Jerusalem as ‘occupied’.
East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel after the Six-Day War in 1967 and its continued occupation is regarded as illegal under international law.
“I don’t think it is useful to be commenting on what you say was a controversy more than a year ago, remarks that did not represent a change in Australian government policy but were represented by some people quite wrongly,” Senator Brandis said.
When asked “Did you go to East Jerusalem on this trip and assess whether it is occupied or not?”, Senator Brandis replied that “I’ve visited East Jerusalem…. I visited the Old City yesterday as one does in Jerusalem.”