"Some of the leading figures in the multi-trillion-dollar superannuation sector will join Financial Services Minister Bill Shorten on a visit to Israel later this week as the government examines ways for the retirement savings system to help kick-start the Australian venture capital business... During the visit, co-ordinated by the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC) and the Israeli embassy, the group will meet executives of leading Israeli financial services companies, including its largest insurance group, Migdal, and fellow insurer Clal Insurance Enterprise Holdings... 'The chamber is very excited about the Shorten-led trade mission', said AICC chairman Paul Israel, who is based in Tel-Aviv. 'For the first time Australian pension funds will be exposed to the vibrant and innovative Israeli venture capital and hi-tech scene'." (Shorten to study Israeli super, Damon Kitney, The Australian, 23/4/12)
OK, you probably knew Migdal and Clal would be vibrant and innovative - after all, everything is v & i in Israel, isn't it? - but did you have any idea just how v & i they are? Apparently, very:
1) "Four Swedish government pension funds... have mirrored a decision by the Norwegian Government Pension Fund and blacklisted Elbit Systems, the Israeli defence technologies firm, from their investment portfolios for human rights violations in the Palestinian territories... Elbit Systems was linked to violations of international rights conventions through its building and maintenance of a surveillance system for parts of the separation barrier [condemned in 2004 by the ICJ] on the West Bank... According to its investor relations web site, Elbit's 3 largest shareholders are Migdal Insurance of Israel, Black Rock Institutional Trust Co. and hedge fund Renaissance Technologies." (Swedish pension funds divest from the occupation, Daniel Brooksbank, jfjfp.com, 29/3/10)
2) "Subsidiaries of the [Housing & Construction Holding Co.] are involved in several construction projects in the occupied West Bank. For instance, Solel Boneh constructed housing projects in the occupied territories including in the settlements of Homat Shmuel (Har Homa), Ariel, Imanuel and Modi'in Illit (as a subcontractor), and supplied materials for the checkpoints. Solel Boneh also has a factory for construction materials in Kiryat Sefer, which is a neighborhood of the West Bank settlement of Modi'in Illit. A different subsidiary, Housing & Construction Real Estate Development (Shikun Ovdim), built housing projects in the settlement of Modi'in Illit and the Ramot neighborhood in Jerusalem beyond the Green Line... Major shareholders [of the Housing & Construction Holding Co. are] Arison Group (47.61%), Clal Insurance Enterprises Holdings (5.33%), Migdal Insurance & Financial Holdings (4.48%)." (Housing & Construction Holding Co., whoprofits.org)
3) The Clal Group own 75% of Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises Ltd. Nesher supplies 75-90% of all cement sold in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. "The use of Nesher cement has been well documented across many construction sites in the West Bank settlements, their infrastructure and in the construction of the Jerusalem Light Rail in illegally annexed East Jerusalem." (Corporate Complicity in Israel's Occupation: Evidence from the London Session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, Ed. by Asa Winstanley & Frank Barat, 2011, p 86)
Pretty damn v & i, eh?
Now Bill Shorten is supposed to be a Gillard man, right? After all, he helped madam axe Rudd in 2009, didn't he? In fact, as the Peter Slipper affair reveals, he's so loyal to Gillard that she can slap him around with impunity:
"Ms Gillard has backed the Speaker but there is increasing disquiet within the Government over Mr Ashby's claim he was sexually harassed by Mr Slipper. She was forced to slap down Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten after he suggested Mr Slipper should not return as Speaker while those allegations were outstanding... [However,] several hours later he altered his position... In an interview on Sky TV, he said: 'I haven't seen what she's said, but let me say I support what it is she said'." (Rudd Shortens: Punters back Kevin Rudd as Bill Shorten gets narky, news.com.au, 27/4/12)
Got the picture? Gillard could mutter in her sleep and Shorten would accord her utterances ex cathedra status.
That said, there is one set of prime ministerial words that Shorten will be ignoring when he goes to Israel to schmooze with Migdal and Clal:
"Well, what the position of the Labor Party and Labor Government is [is] that we want to see a two state solution... My colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, has said that we want to see a halt to settlement activity." (Julia Gillard, Lateline, 16/6/09)
So why didn't Gillard slap Shorten around when she heard he'd be kissing Migdal and cuddling Clal? Like Obama she probably thinks 2009 and talk of an Israeli settlement freeze is sooo old hat. Far from slapping Bill Shorten around on this one, she probably patted his head and wished him bon voyage.
And maybe, just maybe, now that the settlements are in full swing once more, Bill will get us a slice of the action. v & i, way to go!