SYDNEY, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- Former Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, called on the Australian Government to officially recognise Palestine on Monday, ahead of a visit by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week.
Hawke penned a harsh rebuke to Israel in the Australian Financial Review, despite being well known for his support of their sovereignty, and says the Israeli government's decision to construct 2,500 new settlements on the West Bank in January displayed "contempt" for the United Nations.
"Australia was there at the very beginning. The least we can do now, in these most challenging of times, is to do what 137 other nations have already done, grant diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine," Hawke said.
In late January, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she was concerned about Israel's new settlements in the West Bank, but refused to condemn them, despite pressure from Palestinian groups in Australia.
In a letter to the Australian Government, from the Palestinian Ambassador to Australia Izzat Abdulhadi, Palestine called on Australia to take stronger action against what they feel was an "illegal" operation by Israel.
"I kindly urge the Australian government to apply pressure on Israel to halt its illegal settlement activities and abide by international law," Abdulhadi wrote.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will arrive in Australia next week, via the United States.