What ed said: extracts from the Labour leader's speech to the LFI

June 19, 2014

As we touched down on that pre-Passover plane, it immediately took me back to being a young boy and travelling to Israel for the first time.

For the next two days, I would have the most vivid reminders of the deep roots that I have in Israel: like visiting my cousins at the Nachshonim Kibbutz, where I had picked oranges as a child, and having dinner with my extended family in Tel Aviv, arguing and debating, with love and affection…

There were three particular things which made this visit not only an official trip but a deeply personal journey. First, being approached by the assistant to the President of the Hebrew University, who said to me: "My grandmother was in hiding in the same Belgian village as your grandmother"… That experience would be unlikely to happen to me in any other country.

That is just one of the reasons why Israel has special meaning for me and a special place in my heart.

Second, my visit to Yad Vashem. A moment of reflection, mourning and discovery. Reflection on the loss of so many millions of Jews. Mourning for so many members of my family that were lost. And discovery. As I left Yad Vashem I was handed a collection of documents about my family including new information, 70 years later, about what happened to my grandfather and where he perished.

Israel has a special meaning for me and a special place in my heart

It was an extraordinary feeling, so many years after he died, to make new discoveries about his death…

But I did not simply go as a Jew returning to his family's roots, but also as someone who wants to be the next Prime Minister of this country…

The Israel I experienced on my trip was one that is seizing the future. Like the young people at Hebrew University and the thrilling innovation and entrepreneurship of new and hi-tech businesses. Israel is a major world innovator and I was inspired by the work of the hi-tech hub, organised by the British embassy…

Visiting Israel brings home the security challenges that it faces very starkly. We visited Sderot and I saw the rockets that had been fired from Gaza and landed in that town… And Justine and I met children, no older than my own, who don't get the luxury of playing outside as ours do, but are assigned to an inside bunker playground… The real fear is that settlement activity makes the viability of a two-state solution more challenging… We know that compromises in key areas must be made on both sides. We must also do nothing that will get in the way of peace.

So we are clear that the threat of boycotts of Israel is the wrong response. We do and we will resolutely oppose the isolation of Israel. And my party does so. No one in my party either should question Israel's right to exist.

If I become Prime Minister in less than a year's time, I will be proud to do so as a friend of Israel, a Jew and, most of all, someone who feels so proud to be part of the community.

Last updated: 3:16pm, June 19 2014