It may be his first trip to Israel as British Prime Minister, but Gordon Brown has not shied away from controversy. He called on Israel to stop building settlements on occupied land, in a bid to speed up a Middle East peace deal.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: “You criticised our settlement policy and I tried to explain to you the restraint which we put on ourselves on the one hand and the need to keep the path of life going on on the other hand. And while you disagree with us, at least I hope you understand better the position of Israel.”
Gordon Brown: “I understand the obstacles but I also understand that there are great opportunities and I have urged everyone to seize the opportunities that now exist and to move forward to a peace settlement that is both viable and lasting.”
Working on the principle that economic success smooths the path to peace, Brown announced close to 40 million euros in new aid to the Palestinians. Half of this is apparently budget support for the government of President Mahmoud Abbas in the occuppied West Bank. It adds to the close to 300 million euros the British government has already pledged over the next three years.
Brown also urged western donors to make good on their recent pledges. London will host another investment conference for Palestinians later this year.