Israeli prime minister hopes to triple trade with Australia

Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, third left, attends a meeting with government ministers at the parliamentary offices in Sydney, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. Prime Minister Netanyahu is on a four day visit to Australia, the first official visit by an Israeli Prime Minister. (Dean Lewins/Pool via AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, addresses students at the Moriah War Memorial College as the Israeli flag is projected in Sydney, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. Netanyahu is on a four day-visit to Australia, the first official visit by an Israeli prime minister. (Dean Lewins/Pool Photo via AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses students at the Moriah War Memorial College as the Israeli, left, and Australian flags are projected in Sydney, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. Netanyahu is on a four day-visit to Australia, the first official visit by an Israeli prime minister. (Dean Lewins/Pool Photo via AP)
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, second right, and Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, right, meet student during a visit the Moriah War Memorial College in Sydney, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. Prime Minister Netanyahu is on a four day visit to Australia, the first official visit by an Israeli Prime Minister. (Dean Lewins/Pool via AP)
Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, second right, listens to Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting with government ministers at the parliamentary offices in Sydney, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. Prime Minister Netanyahu is on a four day visit to Australia, the first official visit by an Israeli Prime Minister. (Dean Lewins/Pool via AP)
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, right, meet student during a visit the Moriah War Memorial College in Sydney, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. Prime Minister Netanyahu is on a four day visit to Australia, the first official visit by an Israeli Prime Minister. (Dean Lewins/Pool via AP)
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, left, attends a meeting with government ministers at the parliamentary offices in Sydney, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. Prime Minister Netanyahu is on a four day visit to Australia, the first official visit by an Israeli Prime Minister. (Dean Lewins/Pool via AP)
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, right, shakes the hand of a student during a visit the Moriah War Memorial College in Sydney, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. Prime Minister Netanyahu is on a four day visit to Australia, the first official visit by an Israeli Prime Minister. (Dean Lewins/Pool via AP)
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, second right, and Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, right, meet student during a visit the Moriah War Memorial College in Sydney, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. Prime Minister Netanyahu is on a four day visit to Australia, the first official visit by an Israeli Prime Minister. (Dean Lewins/Pool via AP)

SYDNEY — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that he hoped to triple bilateral trade with Australia as the countries forge closer technology and aviation ties.

Bilateral trade is currently worth about $1 billion a year, with Israel sending less than 1 percent of its exports Down Under and Australian products accounting for just 0.3 percent of Israel's imports.

"Our trade is $1 billion. It should be at least double or triple that," Netanyahu said as he sat for talks with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Australian government ministers in Sydney.

"I'd like to encourage the Australian and Israeli companies to increase in trade," he said.

"If I did the schlep, they should do it too," he added, referring to the 14,200-kilometer (8,800-mile) journey between Sydney and Tel Aviv.

His comments came after he and Turnbull oversaw the signing of agreements for more cooperation between Israel and Australia on technological innovation and air services during the second day of his four-day visit.

Netanyahu visited Sydney Jewish school Moriah College, where he was mobbed by cheering primary students, while his wife Sara earlier shared morning tea with Lucy Turnbull at Jesse's kosher bakery.

While Netanyahu has enjoyed a warm welcome from Turnbull and Sydney's Jewish community, Palestinian supporters will rally in downtown Sydney on Thursday night to protest Israel's settlement expansion in the West Bank.

The Australian National Imams Council also released a statement accusing Israel of committing brutalities against Palestinians and urged Turnbull to demand Israel end its "illegal settlement" and respect the rights of the Palestinians.

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