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Labor factions split over government's decision to 'reclassify' East Jerusalem

Seen as too close to the so-called pro-'Israel lobby': Bill Shorten.

Seen as too close to the so-called pro-'Israel lobby': Bill Shorten. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Federal Labor is split over the government's decision to reclassify East Jerusalem as ''disputed'' rather than ''occupied'', with the NSW branch of the ALP and its Left faction lining up against Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and the Victorian Right.

Mr Shorten and his allies are widely seen as too close to the so-called pro-''Israel lobby''. And there is disquiet about Mr Shorten's muted condemnation of the government's shift on its description of East Jerusalem - a move that has provoked diplomatic protests from Arab communities but which the government says is only a change in terminology, not policy.

Labor insiders said Mr Shorten's deputy, foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek, is particularly unhappy about Mr Shorten's muted response to the policy shift.

Spokesmen for Mr Shorten and Ms Plibersek played down any split between the pair on Israel, issuing almost identical statements on Wednesday that restated Labor's belief that the territory was occupied.

Ms Plibersek on Thursday again denied any split, telling ABC radio that ''Bill and I have identical positions here and we put out a statement yesterday that shows exactly that''.

Behind the scenes, former foreign minister Bob Carr is helping organise a series of motions for the NSW Labor conference next month that will endorse the party's existing position - that all settlements are illegal under international law.

In government, Mr Carr forced former prime minister Julia Gillard and her supporters in the Victorian Right to abandon their opposition to Palestine being granted observer status at the United Nations.

A senior NSW figure said ''the Victorian Right is famously behind the Likud line''.

Likud is a centre-right party in Israel led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But a Victorian ally of Mr Shorten said Ms Plibersek ''came from a left wing foreign policy perspective'' and added: ''This is why you don't give foreign policy to lefties. Bill's view is not to waste any time on it, but Tanya sees it as an important policy position.''

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will meet ambassadors from Islamic nations on Thursday to assure them Australia's policy towards East Jerusalem hasn't changed.

The government's decision to rule out using the term ''occupied'' for the ancient city sparked concern among Islamic nations, which have registered their concerns with Australian officials both at home and abroad.

Ms Plibersek said on Thursday that Attorney-General George Brandis' ''freelancing'' on the Middle East was ''not reassuring'' for ambassadors or for Australian farmers worried about trade implications with Arab countries.

with AAP

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