BRADFORD'S political parties are divided over a call to fly the Israeli flag next to City Hall.

Last month, the Council raised the Palestinian flag in Centenary Square, to mark the toll of the conflict on civilians in Gaza, following requests from the community.

All the major political parties were said to have backed the idea.

But the move proved a controversial one, with Shipley Conservative MP Philip Davies among those criticising the decision.

Now the Council has received a request from a member of the public to fly the Israeli flag, which has won the backing of the Conservatives, but not the Labour or Liberal Democrat groups.

Deputy Conservative leader, Councillor Simon Cooke, said the group was supporting the call to fly the Israeli flag on two grounds: firstly, that it would note the loss of life of Israeli citizens in the latest conflict, and secondly that it would show that "contrary to recent statements from George Galloway MP, they are as welcome in Bradford as anyone else".

He said: "The Conservative Group, when consulted over the flying of the Palestinian flag in Centenary Square, agreed to the proposal on the understanding that it was to be done to mark the loss of life among the residents of Gaza and that if a similar request was made for the flag of Israel to be flown, then the Council would be supportive of such a suggestion."

Both Labour and the Lib Dems were keen to stress that they were not opposed to the principle of flying the Israeli flag, just that in their view this particular request had not been justified.

Councillor David Green, leader of the Council and the Labour group, said in this case it had not been "clear as to the genuine nature of the request".

But he said the Labour group was not opposed to any flying of the Israeli flag.

He said: "We don't take those kinds of fundamentalist positions."

Lib Dem group leader Councillor Jeanette Sunderland said she was concerned the matter was becoming "a bit of a circus" and that she wanted the Council to concentrate on delivering local services.

She said: "It appears to be some sort of tit-for-tat exercise."