UK & World News

  • 12 April 2014, 17:25

Miliband: Israeli Settlements Threaten Peace

Ed Miliband has said the continued construction of Israeli settlements on the West Bank poses a "mortal threat" to the peace process and the hope of reaching a two-state solution.

Mr Miliband made the comment during a visit to the Bedouin community of Khan Al Ahmar, which is facing the prospect of displacement to make way for the expansion of a Jewish settlement.

The Labour leader said: "What I've seen today is the expansion of Israeli settlements on the Palestinian West Bank. It is not only wrong and illegal, but represents a mortal threat to a two-state solution and to a successful outcome from the process.

"There are challenges on all sides, and there have to be compromises and courageous steps on all sides. But I'm clear about the dangers that the growth of settlements represents."

Jewish settlements in the West Bank are one of the central issues in the faltering negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, coordinated by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The British government and much of the international community regard them as illegal under international law, and view their growth as damaging to the geographical viability of any future Palestinian State.

Mr Miliband said he believed the Jewish community in Britain had a role to play in asking questions about the implications of the settlements for Israel's long-term future.

He said: "There is concern, it's been expressed to me by members of the Jewish community in Britain, about the growth of settlements and the dangers it represents for Israel.

"It's really important to say this, and I say this as a friend of Israel, a supporter of Israel, as someone who believes that Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people, but in order to get the security that Israel needs, we need that successful outcome to the negotiations, and to get that successful outcome to the negotiations we need to the two state solution ... that's why the issue of the expansion of settlements is such an issue - and it's right that we talk about it."

During his visit to the Khan Al Amar village, the Labour leader was given a tour of a school building constructed from car tyres, held a meeting with representatives of the community and played football with local children.

He then went to Ramallah, the administrative capital of the Palestinian Authority, to hold a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The three-day visit to Israel and the West Bank, which has involved events in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, is the first major foreign tour that Mr Miliband has undertaken since becoming leader of the Labour Party.

On Thursday, during a question and answer session with Israeli students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Mr Miliband said he felt a "deep sense of gratitude" for the "sanctuary" that it had provided his grandmother and other members of his family after they fled Nazi Europe.

When pushed by students on whether he considered himself a 'Zionist' he said: "For me, Israel is the homeland for the Jewish people, and the reason I put it in those terms is because it is not just a theoretical idea for me, it's my family's experience. That's the way I like to talk about it."

He also held a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which Mr Miliband claims the Israeli leader made clear he remained fully committed to reaching a two-state solution.