Israel’s the wrong place at the wrong time

Following yesterday’s story in the Fairfax press about an upcoming visit to Israel by the Australian political and media elite, this letter appears today in the Sydney Morning Herald:

In agreeing to lead a privately organised delegation of politicians, business people and academics to Israel, Julia Gillard’s political timing seems to have deserted her (“Gillard to head mission to Israel”, May 26).

Israel is still under investigation for war crimes in the recent Gaza war, its new government has refused to commit to a two-state solution and its policy of building settlements in the occupied territories continues apace. The US and other governments are mulling changes of policy to force Israel to the negotiating table.

Gillard’s endorsement of the trip sends the wrong message at the wrong time. Business as usual and cultural exchange are exactly what are at stake if Israel’s policies continue. For its long-term security, the human rights of the Palestinians and peaceful co-existence in the Middle East, Australian politicians need to convey this message to our Israeli colleagues as clearly as possible.

David Pritchard St Lucia (Qld)