Ed Miliband sidesteps issue of Israeli-Palestinians peace process

The Labour leader thanked the country for providing a sanctuary for his grandmother, but was critical of the construction of illegal settlement housing in occupied territory

Jerusalem

The Labour party leader Ed Miliband began a three-day visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank by sidestepping tough questions from students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on the burning issue of the day: the breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Perhaps anxious not to offend his hosts, the Labour leader chose to carefully avoid saying anything firm on the matter, just two days after the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, who oversees the negotiations, appeared to put most of the blame on Israel.

“I come to listen and learn and not to lecture at this sensitive time,” Mr Miliband said. “We want to encourage the two-state solution that we in the Labour party believe in.”

Pressed on the matter by a student, he replied: “I hope it isn’t the collapse of the peace process. There are always very perilous moments. All our efforts must be put into this [Israeli-Palestinian] dialogue carrying on and getting to a fruitful outcome. We support the efforts of John Kerry.”

Mr Miliband, the first Jewish leader of the Labour Party, made clear at the outset of his talk that his visit was as much an odyssey into his Holocaust-haunted family history as it was a chance to meet with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian leaders.

“I come as a politician, as leader of the Labour Party, as leader of the Opposition, as someone who wants to be prime minister, but there is also a much more personal story,’’ he told the students, many of them majors in international relations or history.

“Arriving here at Ben Gurion Airport I was taken back to when I was seven years old and came to visit my grandmother and cousins on kibbutz. It was 37 years ago and in my grandmother’s house I saw a photograph and asked my grandmother, ‘who is that?’ She became very upset. I was taken out of the room. It was explained to me that that was my grandfather who was killed in the camps, the husband of my grandmother.

“I come here conscious of my family history and with a deep sense of gratitude to Israel for what it did for my grandmother, who spent 30 years living here. Israel was sanctuary for her from the most indescribable grief,” he said.

Before his talk, Mr Miliband was surprised to discover something new about his family history. He was approached by Jonathan Mandelbaum, the assistant to the university’s president, who told him that their grandmothers had been hidden by the same family in Belgium during the Nazi occupation of that country.

Mr Miliband told the students his family history “makes me aware of the challenges Israel faces, the dangers of anti-Semitism and of people who question its right to exist”.

Asked what his stance was on academic boycotting of Israel, Mr Miliband replied: “I don’t think boycotts are the solution to the complex problems Israeli and Palestinian people grapple with.”

He also criticised Israel’s construction of illegal settlement housing in occupied territory: “I do believe that growth in settlements is a serious issue that needs to be addressed – they are illegal under international law. As Israel seeks the two-state solution giving it the security it deserves, this needs to be addressed.”

A year ago, Mr Miliband was asked at an event of British Jewish leaders whether he was a Zionist, or Jewish nationalist. He replied: ‘’Yes, I am a supporter of Israel.’’ His office subsequently issued a statement that his comment did not mean he was describing himself as a Zionist. Today, when pressed on that by students, he avoided using the term. “Israel is the homeland for the Jewish people. This is not a theoretical idea for me, it is my family experience. That is how I think about it.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

h2 Recruit Ltd: Senior Sales Executive - SaaS/ Cyber Security - £60,000

£32000 - £34000 per annum + Uncapped OTE £65,000 : h2 Recruit Ltd: Looking for...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Executive - Software-as-a-Service/ SaaS - £42,000

£28000 - £31000 per annum + Bonus + Progression: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you looki...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Inside Sales Manager - SaaS/ Financial Software - £90,000

£60000 - £65000 per annum + Bonus + Benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Rapidly expandin...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager - Bristol

£31000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the UK, the major project fo...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game