In an hour-long meeting with students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband emphasized his strong personal connection to Israel, extolled the country’s successes, urged continued negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians toward a two-state solution, and called Iran’s intentions a major concern for the entire world.
Miliband made the comments at the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus, where he answered questions from about 200 Hebrew University students during the first public appearance of his three-day visit to Israel.
The first Jewish leader of Britain’s Labour Party, Miliband said he was grateful to Israel for providing a sanctuary for his grandmother, after his grandfather and other family members were killed in the Holocaust. Recalling his first visit to Israel at the age of seven, he said: “The image in my mind from 37 years ago is of going to visit my grandmother’s house and seeing a photograph of somebody, and asking who it was, and my grandmother was very upset. I was taken out of the room and I was explained that it was my grandfather who was killed in the camps. And so I come here very conscious of my family’s history, and also with a deep sense of gratitude to Israel, which was a sanctuary for her from the most indescribable grief.”
Declaring himself “acutely conscious” of Israelis’ concerns on a wide range of issues, Miliband said: “I think what is more ignored is the great achievements of Israel and some of the great challenges that Israel faces, which are actually more in common with the challenges that my country faces. I was thinking on the plane here about the extraordinary success story of Israel and its economy. The fact that you have more university graduates than any other developed country. The fact that you have more scientific papers produced than any other country. The fact that you spend more on research and development than any other country. The fact that you have this extraordinary high-tech industry. And that you are Britain’s second largest export partner. So there’s a huge success story, and indeed the shadow ministers in the government that we hope to form next year have been coming here to learn some of these lessons.”
Regarding antisemitism, Miliband said: “You don’t have the family history that I have or that so many people in this country have, without feeling that when prejudice and antisemitism come to the fore, it raises a whole set of deep anxieties and concerns about where it might lead.” He added that Labour is “very vigilant” about the existence of antisemitism or any other form of discrimination within the party.
About this “sensitive moment” for the peace process, Miliband said the best way forward is to continue “dialogue and negotiations” and a two-state solution.
Regarding Iran, he said: “I think that the way forward we must be seeking is to turn the interim agreement we made with Iran into an agreement that can last and can work. No one should be under any illusions about the Iranian regime, and we are not. Everybody is absolutely clear and understands the deep concern there is in Israel about what the Iranian government has said about Israel and about its intentions. It isn’t just Israel’s concern; it isn’t just a regional concern; it’s a very significant global concern.”
Endorsing the ongoing negotiations process with Iran, alongside “the international sanctions that have brought Iran to the table,” Miliband said: “I don’t see any good outcome which doesn’t involve that kind of negotiation. We never rule out any options, but I’ve got to say to you that all of our efforts must be focused on that outcome.”
Miliband was introduced by the president of the Hebrew University, Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson. The event was organized in cooperation with the Hebrew University Students Union and the National Students Union.