Former Queensland premier Peter Beattie says the Labor Party risks becoming politically irrelevant over its “Stalinist” approach to Israel, which he argues has become an obsession.
Mr Beattie described a proposed ban on politicians travelling to Israel on trips funded by Jewish organisations as an “extreme view” that would not help achieve a two-state solution, which he supports.
“It smacks of single-minded obsession with Israel. This is becoming an obsession and I don’t think that’s healthy politically,” Mr Beattie said.
“I would have thought there were a lot of other places in the world which deserved a lot more consideration than Israel.
“Are we going to restrict travel to China because of their destruction of Tibet? Or Cuba because they’ve got a terrible human rights record? You could find something in nearly every country around the world.”
In total, 39 motions critical of Israel have been received by the Labor Party before its NSW conference on February 13-14 compared with 17 on all other countries and foreign policy topics, including Syria, Iraq and Libya.
Federal Labor politicians Sam Dastyari and Tony Burke are among those who support the move to ban travel to Israel if the trips have been funded by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council or the Jewish Board of Deputies.
“(This is) taking a hardline, Stalinist type of approach, which is how I see this,” Mr Beattie said.
“If we take a position which is counter-productive to a resolution of the conflict then we are in a sense becoming politically irrelevant.
“Australia has traditionally been a middle-power, well respected in the world, and therefore we should use our credibility to bring about a solution, not antagonise and take an extreme view which is counter-productive.”
Mr Beattie said Australia had played a crucial role in the formation of Israel and should continue to play that constructive role.
He was concerned about expanding settlements and believed there should be a two-state solution, but he said the path forward involved negotiation and dialogue.
Communications spokesman Jason Clare, who is part of the party’s pro-Palestinian group, is expected to propose a compromise motion in which MPs would be required to spend equal time in Israel and Palestinian territories.
Mr Beattie said it was important for MPs to visit Israel, noting many would be unable to afford to travel to the Middle East if the trips were not funded. “Not everyone has the resources to travel around the world,” he said.
“To suggest there’s some sort of bribery involved from a sponsored trip, what it basically says is that Labor people who accept this are so feeble-minded that they’re going to accept everything they’re told.”
Mr Beattie, who visited Israel during his time as premier but has never been on a sponsored trip to the region, said he understood there was some pressure to maintain marginal seats in western Sydney but political expediency should not dominate good policy.
His comments come after former national party president Warren Mundine said Labor’s move to enforce restrictions on the time spent in Israel and Palestinian territories was “verging on anti-Semitic” and he found it “sickening to watch’’.