An Israeli artillery unit fires a shell from southern Israel into Gaza
Israel has the right to defend itself but the fighting should end, Malcolm Turnbull says. Image by AP PHOTO
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Turnbull warns Albanese against making Israel visit

November 7, 2023

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has urged Anthony Albanese not to make a solidarity visit to Israel despite other world leaders doing so.

Mr Turnbull said a prime ministerial visit to the Middle East would serve no purpose, as calls grow for a ceasefire in the region.

Despite former prime minister Scott Morrison and former UK leader Boris Johnson making a joint visit to Israel, Mr Turnbull said Mr Albanese was better off focusing attention on issues at home.

“What’s Australia going to do, other than provide sympathy and solidarity? Albanese has got to keep his eye on the ball, which is being prime minister of Australia and advancing the interests of the Australian people,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“Leave the showboating for ScoMo and Boris.”

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull
 Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says Anthony Albanese should not visit the Middle East. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Former Liberal MP Dave Sharma, who once held Mr Turnbull’s Sydney electorate of Wentworth, has also suggested Mr Albanese should visit Israel.

“Dave’s a good bloke, he was a good ambassador in Israel … but he’s running for Liberal Party pre-selection, so I can understand why he’s saying that in that context,” Mr Turnbull said.

As the conflict continues between Israel and Hamas, which has been labelled as a terrorist organisation by the federal government, the death toll in Gaza has risen above 10,000.

Both Israel and Hamas have resisted calls for a ceasefire.

Mr Turnbull said while Israel had the right to defend itself following the attacks on October 7, the fighting should come to an end.

“It’s hugely difficult but the sooner this fighting in Gaza can end, the better. It’s a terrible loss of life,” he said.

“Nobody wants this war to continue but equally, the threat of Hamas has to be addressed.”

The Australian government is continuing to work to repatriate citizens trapped in Gaza as Israeli forces surround the main city.

The Rafah crossing into Egypt briefly reopened to approved foreign nationals who had not been able to cross during previous openings. 

The Rafah border crossing
 The Rafah border crossing briefly reopened to approved foreign nationals last week. Image by EPA PHOTO 

There were 34 Australians and their family members on the first approved list but only 25 have made it out.

No Australians have left the besieged strip since Thursday.

The situation remained “highly challenging and rapidly changing”, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said.

“Australia is supporting international efforts to keep the Rafah border crossing open for humanitarian purposes, including the passage of civilians.”

The department is assisting 79 people in Gaza.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham said he hoped to see stability in the region.

“The removal of Hamas needs to be the first objective, we all wish to see that happen as quickly and effectively as possible, so that some type of peace and stability can be achieved,” he said.

“The steps after that in terms of how long Israel may play a role there, what other steps may be undertaken, they are ones that will require strong leadership and extensive engagement from Israel, from its international partners and friends.”