UK Labor leader Ed Miliband arrived in Israel early Thursday for a three-day tour. On the same day he devoted an hour to answering wide-ranging questions from students and guests at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The session was friendly and informal, with the British opposition leader answering questions about his football preferences – a “long-suffering Leeds United fan” – and asking for details about felafel joints in London.
Israel, which Miliband called “a huge, huge success story,” is not only another stop on his political rounds, but has a special place in his family history following his grandmother’s arrival as a Holocaust survivor.
While politely avoiding requests to confirm whether he considers himself Zionist, Miliband clearly stated his support for Israel as “the homeland for the Jewish people.”
He spoke of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, saying that all efforts must be put into the dialogue and that there is no way forward without a two-state solution.
“I hope very much it isn’t the collapse of the peace process,” he said, when asked about his view of the latest negotiation difficulties.
The predominantly native-English speaking audience tackled Miliband on issues regarding anti-Semitism in the UK, the effect that the expanding Muslim population might have on Britain’s foreign policy and on his opinion of the English voices calling to boycott Israel.
“I’m deeply concerned about anti-Semitism,” said Miliband, adding that he would be very vigilant should any anti-Semitic voices rise from his own party.
Miliband spoke of the negotiations the P5+1 – the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany – are having with Iran. He said that “everybody understands” Israel’s worries regarding a nuclear Iran and that it is not alone in its concerns. He called the interim agreement reached between the West and the Islamic Republic a step forward, adding that it is an “absolute priority to continue negotiations.”
Throughout the session Miliband stressed the importance of “an outward-looking Britain,” saying that “the world is a better place when Britain engages in it.”
Miliband’s itinerary includes a meeting with the Israeli Labor Party leaders, a visit to Yad Vashem as well as some private family get-togethers.