David Cameron in the Holy Land: PM switches tack to support Palestinian aims on visit to occupied West Bank

Earlier in the week, Mr Cameron appeared to bolster the Israeli position in troubled region

Bethlehem

Prime Minister David Cameron switched gears and sought to appeal to Palestinians after having identified closely with Israel during a speech to the Israeli parliament on Wednesday. During a trip to the occupied West Bank, Mr Cameron offered backing for the Palestinian aim of establishing a capital in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem and support for the Palestinian economy.

Meanwhile, tensions remained high between Israel and Gaza, although there were also hopes Egyptian mediation was restoring calm after a flare-up that began on Wednesday. Dozens of rocket attacks were made by the Islamic Jihad group on southern Israel, followed by Israeli air strikes against targets in the coastal enclave. It was the worst cross-border violence since an Israeli military operation in 2012.

An Islamic Jihad leader, Khaled Batsh, posted on Facebook that Egypt had brokered an agreement to stop the firing while a senior Israeli defence source quoted by the Ynet news agency said: “Quiet will be answered by quiet.”

In Gaza, witnesses told Reuters that three people were wounded in the southern town of Rafah during an Israeli airstrike, one of seven strikes against “terror sites” according to the Israeli military. Israeli reports said rockets were fired towards the southern towns of Ashkelon and Ashdod in the morning and the Ashkelon area later in the day without causing casualties.

Speaking after what he described as “good discussions” with Mr Abbas, Mr Cameron, who was to head back to Britain tonight, said: “Our position is clear and hasn’t changed. We want to see a sovereign, viable, independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with land swaps alongside a secure Israel.” Jerusalem, important for the three monotheistic faiths, should be the “shared capital of both sides” and Gaza should be a fundamental part of the Palestinian state, he said.

“We want to see more institutions reopen in East Jerusalem and the protection of Palestinian life, culture and heritage in this unique city,” Mr Cameron said. The statement was an implicit criticism of Israel, which has since the early days of the second Palestinian uprising in 2001 kept closed Palestinian political and economic institutions – including the Chamber of Commerce – and has shut down any events linked to the Palestinian Authority. Israel was required under the 2003 international peace blueprint known as “the roadmap” to reopen the institutions but did not do so.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman declined to comment on Mr Cameron’s statement. But Qais Abdul-Karim, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, applauded it as: “A timely reassertion of the European position on this very sensitive subject. Israel has insisted on stifling life in the city. This statement is a step forward and gives the position of Europe and the UK more weight among the Palestinians.”

Mr Cameron said: “Britain wants to help Palestine build strong institutions and a strong economy.” Towards this end, he said, it will provide support for almost a hundred Palestinian businesses to become more competitive and will allocate £6m to restore farmland in area C, a part of the West Bank crucial to future Palestinian statehood that is under Israeli control.

Mr Cameron appeared to backtrack from remarks he made in the Knesset that there needed to be a mutual recognition, including that Palestinians recognise that Israel is “the nation state of the Jewish people”.

That formulation appeared to endorse Mr Netanyahu’s demand that Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state, something the Palestinians refuse. Israel says such recognition is necessary to prove the Palestinians do not intend to flood it with refugees.

Mr Cameron used the phrase “national homeland of the Jewish people”. He explained: “That is what Israel is and will be. Jews were persecuted and six million were murdered in the Holocaust and a decision was taken Israel should be a homeland for Jewish people and that’s what it is.

“The status of Israel should be something for Palestinians and Israelis to negotiate,’’ he said.

What Cameron said to the Palestinians

* Our position is clear and hasn’t changed. We want to see a sovereign, viable, independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with land swaps alongside a secure Israel. [Jerusalem should be the] shared capital of both sides.

* The status of Israel and description of Israel should be something for Palestinians and Israelis to negotiate.

* We want to see more institutions reopen in East Jerusalem and the protection of Palestinian life, culture and heritage in this unique city.

What Cameron said to the Israelis

* Let me make it clear, with me you have a British Prime Minister whose belief in Israel is unbreakable and whose commitment to Israel’s security is rock solid.

* Britain opposes boycotts, whether it’s trade unions campaigning for the exclusion of Israelis or universities trying to stifle academic exchange.

* Israel’s place as a homeland for the Jewish people will not be challenged by amateur politicians. Delegitimising the State of Israel is wrong and together we will defeat it.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'