x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Peace possible if Israel withdraws: Brown

The UK prime minister says Israel must pull out of West Bank settlements if a peace accord is ever to be reached.

Gordon Brown smiles as Ehud Olmert makes an address to the Israeli Parliament.
Gordon Brown smiles as Ehud Olmert makes an address to the Israeli Parliament.

JERUSALEM // A lasting peace deal with the Palestinians is within Israel's grasp if it withdraws from West Bank settlements, Gordon Brown, the prime minister of the UK told the Israeli parliament today. A day after talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Mr Brown spelt out his "honest analysis", in the first address to the Israeli parliament by a British premier in the 60-year history of the Jewish state.

"Today there is one historic challenge you still have to resolve so that your 60-year journey into the future is complete: peace with your neighbours and throughout the region," Mr Brown told the parliament in Jerusalem. To deliver such a deal, "it is vital also that both sides now create the conditions for a final agreement", Mr Brown said. The Palestinians need to act "with persistence and perseverance" against terrorists and it would require "Israel freezing, and withdrawing from, settlements and like many of your friends, I urge you to make these decisions".

That comment drew a shout from one person in the chamber that did not disrupt Mr Brown as he went on to reiterate his "economic road map" for a peace deal. Mr Brown held talks yesterday in Jerusalem, with Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, and the Palestinian prime minister Ehud Olmert, plus with their Palestinian counterparts Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. "As a constant friend of Israel, I want to offer the comfort of my support and the support of the British government ? and also my honest analysis," Mr Brown told lawmakers.

"I believe that a historic, hard-won and lasting peace that can bring security on the ground is within your grasp ... I urge you to take it by the hand," said the prime minister. Mr Brown said the fundamentals were "a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders". This would entail "a democratic Israel, secure from attack, recognised by and at peace with all its neighbours alongside a peaceful, democratic and territorially viable state of Palestine that accepts you as its friend and partner".

Jerusalem would be the "capital for both" and there would be a "just and agreed settlement for refugees", said Mr Brown, making his first visit to Israel and the West Bank since becoming prime minister in June 2007. The outline he gave dovetailed closely with the internationally-drafted road map for peace drafted in 2003. Last November, Israel and the Palestinians resumed peace talks after a seven-year hiatus, agreeing to use the road map as a guide for their negotiations.