Labour leader candidates debate Israel

By Jessica Elgot, June 14, 2010
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David Miliband: 'Israel's friend'

David Miliband: 'Israel's friend'

The five candidates in the Labour leadership race have set out their views on Israel and Palestine in front of a packed audience at Stratford Town Hall.

Speaking at the Labour leadership hustings for young Labour Party members, the candidates responded to a question from the audience: “What is your stance on Israel?”

Former Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband called himself a “critical friend of Israel” and spoke of the need to be tough on the Israeli government, calling for an end to the Gaza blockade.

His brother, the former Foreign Secretary David Miliband, also called himself “Israel’s friend,” but said: “We must remember that Israel is a democratic sovereign state but it’s a country whose actions are threatening its neighbours but also its own long-term future.

“It is critical that the international community engages in the conflict. Gaza is a running sore in the region, which it is currently impossible to try and heal.”

Ed Balls spoke about a visit to Gaza and commented on how many children live in the area, and the fact that half the population in Gaza is under 16. He said he was keen to see a peaceful future for the children of the region but said: “Israel has to have the confidence to take down the walls and the barricades.”

Andy Burnham, the former Health Secretary said: “I consider myself a friend of Israel but the current government is making that very, very hard.”

He spoke strongly of the need to define Britain as separate to the US, and not blindly to follow America’s support for the Jewish state. He added that it was “time for Britain to speak up” to end the Gaza blockade.

Hackney MP Diane Abbott, who has often criticised Israel during her time in parliament, called the Gaza blockade “collective punishment for voting for Hamas”.

She added: “This Israeli government has to be made to understand that there is only one solution — and that is a two state solution.”

Last updated: 12:48pm, November 8 2010