Rough ride expected by friends of Israel


The party conference season gets under way in Manchester this weekend with Labour supporters the first to gather.

While there is anticipation in Jewish and pro-Israel political circles that the fringe scene will be dominated by the repercussions of the Gaza conflict, the inevitable fall-out from the Scottish independence referendum will take the spotlight away from overseas affairs.

Nonetheless, Ed Miliband is likely to have one of the roughest rides; he will speak at a Labour Friends of Israel reception on Tuesday night, seven weeks after leading criticism of Israel's military operation in Gaza.

The party leader will appear alongside Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, who is likely to receive a similarly lukewarm reception.

Pro-Israel party members fear boycott motions may make their way on to the conference agenda. However, the leadership's staunch anti-boycott stance should ensure no such policies are passed.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond will be the guest speaker at the Conservative Friends of Israel's fringe session, one of the biggest events of the conference period.

Lib Dem Friends of Palestine boast that their fringe session - at the Liberal Democrats convene in Glasgow on the first weekend of October - will feature "a representative of a Jewish organisation".

Another star turn is likely to be David Ward, the MP who suggested he might fire terrorist rockets at Israel if he lived in Gaza.

The party's Israel Friends' session will discuss the prospects for peace in the region. Bicom chief executive Dermot Kehoe is due to be among the speakers.

The Board of Deputies will be well-represented at all the conferences, with a team promoting its Jewish manifesto for the general election and explaining the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews. The Jewish Leadership Council will also send representatives.

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