Ed Miliband criticises expansion of Israeli settlements

Labour leader Ed Miliband and his wife Justine visit the Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin community in the West Bank Image copyright PA
Image caption Ed Miliband and his wife Justine visited the Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin community in the West Bank

Expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank poses "a mortal threat to the two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ed Miliband has said.

The Labour leader, nearing the end of a three-day visit, said Israel's policy on settlements was "wrong and illegal".

He visited a Bedouin camp where residents are among 2,300 Palestinians facing possible displacement.

Mr Miliband's trip follows a recent faltering in US-led peace talks.

Israel and the Palestinians have blamed each other for taking steps they believe breach commitments aimed at advancing negotiations.

Mr Miliband, who is Jewish, said he supported "the homeland for the Jewish people" but also made it clear he does not back all actions of the Israeli government.

Speaking after his visit to the Khan al-Ahmar camp on Saturday, Mr Miliband said: "What I have seen today shows that the expansion of Israeli settlements on the Palestinian West Bank is not only wrong and illegal but represents a mortal threat to the two-state solution and to a successful outcome of the peace process.

"If we are going to have a viable, democratic Palestinian state the more we see an expansion of settlements the more it becomes difficult to construct this state."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Miliband was joined on the visit to Khan al-Ahmar by shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, second left
Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Miliband and his wife were also shown around the Old City of Jerusalem
Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Miliband has met Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Mr Miliband had a kick-about with children at the camp before meeting community leader Abu Khamis.

Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war. Settlements it has built there are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this and continues to approve the construction of new homes for Israeli citizens.

Palestinian leaders say the West Bank must form part of a future Palestinian state.

Mr Miliband, who has been accompanied by his wife Justine, will stay overnight in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

He is due to hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before he leaves on Sunday.

He has already met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Taking questions at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Friday, Mr Miliband said he had "a deep sense of gratitude to Israel for what they did for my grandmother".

She survived the Holocaust in Poland before emigrating to the country.

'Frozen' taxes

Meanwhile, Israel has imposed sanctions against the Palestinian Authority (PA) in retaliation for its signing up to several international treaties - moves which analysts say could give the Palestinians greater recognition internationally.

Israel says such moves hinder peace negotiations.

It said taxes collected on behalf of the PA would be frozen, with limited access granted to bank deposits in Israel.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told AFP news agency it was "theft of the Palestinian people's money" and a "violation of international law and norms by Israel".

The Palestinian leadership accuses Israel of reneging on a plan to release Palestinian prisoners.

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