Ed Miliband: 'Israel is the Jewish homeland'

Ed Miliband meets Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Flash90)

Ed Miliband meets Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Flash90)

Labour leader Ed Miliband will travel to the Israeli town of Sderot today as he continues his tour of the country.

Mr Miliband described Israel as "the homeland for the Jewish people" during a meeting with Hebrew University of Jerusalem students on Thursday.

He also held meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Labour leader Isaac Herzog.

The hour-long question and answer session with students saw the leader of the opposition cover a wide range of issues including emphasising his personal connection to Israel, praising the country's successes, and highlighting the threat posed by Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions.

Recalling his first visit to Israel at the age of seven, Mr Miliband told the students: "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 it 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."

Mr Miliband compared Israel's economic progress to the economic challenges facing Britain and remarked on Israel's "huge success story".

He called for the current peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians to continue, despite the "sensitive moment" facing the process.

The interim deal with Iran must be turned "into an agreement that can last and can work", he said.

"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."

Mr Miliband also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, where he wrote in the book of remembrance: "I am incredibly moved and humbled to pay this visit.

"It reminds me of my own family loss but also of the suffering and carnage of so many Jews at the hand of the Nazis."

Mr Miliband is being accompanied by his wife, Justine, Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander and Labour Friends of Israel director Jennifer Gerber.

During the visit to Sderot he will see areas of the town which have been bombarded by terrorist rockets fired from Gaza.

He is also expected to meet family members who live close to Tel Aviv and on Saturday will travel to the West Bank for meetings with Palestinian leaders.

Last updated: 10:16am, April 11 2014