An ‘Arms Race’ for UK Parliamentary Visits To Israel

By Oliver Wright Groups linked to both sides of the conflict have spent over £130,000 since the last UK general election on taking Parliamentarians to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
Many of those MPs who accepted trips have gone on to make supportive speeches and statements in Parliament and the media backing the positions of the groups that have paid and organised their travel. On the Israeli side, the biggest single donor, according to the register of MPs’ interests, is Conservative Friends of Israel, which has spent over £30,000 taking more than two dozen Tory backbenchers to Israel and the West Bank since the election on five separate trips. Earlier this week, as the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians intensified, the organisation co-ordinated a public letter supporting the Israeli cause. “More than 1,000 rockets and mortars have been indiscriminately fired into civilian areas by Hamas and other terror organisations operating under its protection,” it read. “Israel has a sovereign duty to protect its citizens. Hamas needs to know that the British Government will not reward its terror tactics.” It was signed by 17 Tory MPs – 10 of whom had been on pro-Israeli delegations to the region in since the 2010 General Election. Other pro-Israeli groups who have paid for MPs to travel to the region include Labour Friends of Israel who have funded nine places for Labour backbenchers on trips and Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel who have spent £5,400. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has spent over £10,000 on trips since 2010, the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange £11,000 and the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre £5,000. Earlier in the week, during a Parliamentary debate on the current conflict, at least 14 of the speakers on either side of the argument had travelled to the region. Louise Ellman, the Labour chair of the Transport Select Committee, visited Israel and the Palestinian territories earlier this year as part of the Australia Israel UK Leadership Dialogue. In the debate she said: “Does the fact that Hamas is committed to the destruction of the state of Israel, that in 2005 Israel removed all its 9,000 settlers and soldiers from Gaza and that that was followed by Hamas firing thousands of rockets from civilian centres in Gaza targeted at Israeli citizens mean that Israel deserves full support in defending its citizens against this aggression?”… Read more at The Independent


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