Milliband tribute ahead of Israel trip

Foreign Secretary David Milliband delivered an unscripted tribute to Israel’s achievements and search for peace at the Israeli embassy Independence Day Party this week. Expressing his delight at participating in the celebration, held at a central London hotel with 2,000 invited guests, Mr Milliband praised Israel’s free press and achievements in agriculture and technology. Referring to recent meetings with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defence Minister Ehud Barak, he said their message was that “there was an unwritten chapter to Israel’s history that still has to be written and that is peace with their neighbours”. Mr Miliband also quoted Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-gurion, who said “if we have to defend ourselves against our enemies, then we can only count on ourselves…but when there is a chance to make peace, we must mobilise all our allies to achieve it”. Last week, in a briefing with Jewish and Israeli media, Mr Milliband insisted that “the next six to eight weeks will come to be seen as very important in the search for a sustainable two-state solution”. Mr Milliband is to visit Israel next month, while Prime Minister Gordon Brown — who also attended the embassy party — is scheduled to go there in July. Mr Milliband said that recent unrest in the region, including the violence in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, was cause for concern, along with the situation in the occupied territories. “It’s very important to address the human crisis in Gaza,” he said, while stressing that the Palestinians were becoming aware of who was ultimately responsible for their situation. “Hamas has killed two israeli civilians trying to deliver fuel — yet another reason to be under no illusions as to what Hamas is doing. “The attacks show who is trying to make a political point.” He also expressed concerns over the forthcoming UN Human rights conference, which has been dubbed Durban II and scheduled to be held next year. The previous UN human rights summit in Durban, South Africa, in 2000 was marred by a series of antisemitic incidents and a wave of anti-Israeli rhetoric. “We are very concerned to not have a repeat of Durban I,” he said. “We are engaged but determined to ensure it doesn’t be come Durban II.”

Last updated: 9:04am, May 27 2008