David Miliband denies visiting family in West Bank settlement
A REPORT that Foreign Secretary David Miliband took time out to dine with relatives at a Jewish settlement in the West Bank threatened to overshadow his visit to the region this week.
The report, strenuously denied, was broadcast on Israeli Army Radio and comes in the run-up to the Annapolis peace summit next Tuesday. The British government has made clear its opposition to the building of settlements in the occupied territories, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has pledged a settlement freeze.
A spokesman for the British embassy said that, although Mr Miliband had relatives in Israel, he dined with them in Tel Aviv. “The Foreign Minister was in Jericho on Saturday to meet Palestinian Authority leaders. He certainly was not at any West Bank settlements.”
One of the relatives, David Landau, an insurance agent, said he was at the Tel Aviv dinner. “We are very proud of the Milibands, even if we do not always agree with their political positions on Israel,” he said.
Mr Landau added that most of Mr Miliband’s relatives in Israel are Orthodox, including some West Bank settlers. “But he has no direct connection with them,” he insisted. Both British and Israeli officials declared that Mr Miliband’s visit — the first since he became Foreign Secretary — had been productive.
After meeting him, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni described talks about the summit and on the threat posed by Iran as “very fruitful”.
Mr Miliband said that the opportunities presented by the summit “don’t come along very often”, and that it was very important that the international community provide “practical and political support for the two parties”.
In a blog on the Foreign Office web- site, Mr Miliband described his trip to Ramallah — the first during his visit — where he met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Entering Ramallah, he said: “It is hard not to notice the security, or the dust.” He found the two leaders to be “serious and engaged”.
He later told Parliament that Britain would be “unstinting” in its support for a peaceful two-state solution. He said that the UK was ready to offer almost £250 million to bolster the economy in the West Bank and Gaza, providing that there was “tangible progress on security” and a “framework document on a two-state solution”.
The Foreign Secretary chats to UJIA gap-year and youth movement teenagers during his visit