SYDNEY, Australia, Feb. 10 (JTA) — Australia’s Prime Minister has defended the right of Australian mining magnate Joseph Gutnick to invest in Hebron. The premier spoke out after the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Canberra protested against Gutnick’s activities. “A private citizen has every right to do with his money as he wishes,” said Premier John Howard. Gutnick, a Lubavitch rabbi who was an active campaign supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, explained his commitment to assisting the Jewish community in Hebron during a profile on the influential public affairs television program “Sunday.” He outlined his plans to develop property within the Jewish enclave, saying that he had the Israeli government’s support for his project. The plans reportedly involve building additional apartments on existing sites and community facilities. In response, a PLO spokesman interviewed on the program said the development proposal was criminally provocative and “it’s the responsibility of the Australian government to exert pressure on him to stop such irresponsible funding and projects.” The prime minister, when challenged to respond to the PLO protest, told “Sunday” that “we have a very close relationship with Israel and I am very proud of my own personal association with Israel’s cause over a very long period of time.”
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