The New South Wales State Conference held last weekend could have been a disaster, but wasn’t.
The motion that had been proposed to ban trips by labour officials to Israel was not put to the conference in the end.
The motion that was passed read, Labour “believes, as a strong supporter of a two-state solution that it is important to understand the perspective of Israelis and Palestinians and that in addition to the travel arrangements in place for in NSW state MP’s, encourages all party members visiting the region for the purpose of understanding the conflict to spend substantial time in both Israel and Palestine”.
The motion in itself is in offensive and if anything is a rational balance of opposing forces around the debate. The good news is that Labor still holds the position that a two-state solution is in fact the best outcome for both Israelis and Palestinians, much to the dismay of the pro Palestinian forces who seek a one state solution ‘from the river to the sea’.
The real story of why the ban on trips was not debated at conference lies elsewhere though. In the days leading up to the conference, negotiations were aplenty around the wording of this motion and about what to do with the proposed trip ban. In the end, with 3 days to go, both the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Federal Australian Labor Party intervened directly and demanded from their New South Wales colleagues that the ban be taken off the table.
The reasoning behind their intervention is simple: Australian is in an election cycle (a federal election must be held sometime by September 2016), and the leaders did not want the obvious distraction and ruckus of a travel ban showing up on page 1, destroying any Jewish Community support for Labor, and allowing the conservatives to play up how Labor is obsessed with issues that are irrelevant to the lives of most Australians.
Moreso, it would show the Leader and Deputy Leader (who is the shadow Foreign Minister) not in control of their own party on an issue whose support on Israel is perceived to be in question. And
With the intervention of the leadership of the Federal labour party, the proposed ban on trips has been put aside for now. This begs the question of what may happen next year when there is no election, because you can be sure as the sun rises that the pro-Palestinian/ vicious anti-Israel camp in Labor will not stop. They have as much said this.
Pro Palestinian forces have tweeted that they had achieved a great victory in having this motion passed. Indeed, the 2 speakers for the motion came from the anti-Israel camp. At the same time, some in the pro-Israel camp also went into self-congratulatory mode in that they had held back the barbarians at the gate in having the proposed ban stopped.
One can only wonder what would have happened had the Leadership of the ALP not intervened and saved the day.
It isn’t just food for thought; it is an urgent stimulus to get Israel’s case better heard and understood.