01 February 2016

Labor is divided on Israel

From The Australian, 29 Jan 2016, by Mark Coultan, State political correspondent, Sydney:

Bill Shorten doesn’t see the need to start giving his Labor MPs travel instructions.
Picture: Rex Nicholson

Bill Shorten is at odds with the NSW Labor leader Luke Foley on whether ALP officials should spend equal time in Israel and the Palestinian territories on sponsored trips.

The issue is coming to a head as multiple branches submit 24 motions to next month’s NSW ALP annual conference seeking to ban sponsored trips to Israel by party officials, or put conditions on such visits.

Last year, under pressure from pro-Palestinian MPs, Mr Foley decided that if Labor MPs took sponsored trips to Israel, they should spend equal time in the Palestinian territories.
But the federal Opposition Leader said yesterday he wouldn’t impose such conditions on trips. “I trust Labor representatives. I don’t see the need to start giving them travel instructions,” Mr Shorten said.

Mr Foley said last night he stood by his policy.

Former foreign minister Bob Carr and NSW upper-house member Shaoquett Moselmane are among those pushing for a tougher stand on sponsored trips.

...The federal Labor MP for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby, asked why Israel was being singled­ out.
“If a Labor person takes a trip to the United States, do they have to spend the same time in Russia? ...Beating up on the region­’s only democracy will not instil confidence in the NSW public about the party’s priorities.”
Former senator Michael Forshaw, who is the chairman of the ALP’s international affairs policy committee, said equal time ­between Israel and the Palestinian territories was being pushed by some in the party in order to stop trips to Israel altogether....
“In my 40 years I have never ever seen the party try and prevent­ an MP or an official from ­visiting some part of the world in this manner... For years people from the Left travelled to Moscow or Cuba. They may not have liked it, but nobody ever tried to stop them through the party.’’
...The Labor conference’s ­foreign policy agenda is also dominat­ed by motions that are critical of ­Israel.