Thursday, March 3, 2011
British PM pledges his ‘indestructible’ support for Israel
David Cameron says Israel has a right to search vessels entering Gaza, protect its people from rocket, missile attacks coming from the Strip.
British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday reaffirmed his commitment to Israel, saying that his belief in Israel is “indestructible.”
Speaking at a dinner for the Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitism and provides security for the Jewish community in the UK, the prime minister said he wants to build a strong and productive relationship with Israel.
“With me you have a prime minister whose belief in Israel is indestructible. And you have a prime minister who wants to build a strong and productive relationship with Israel,” he told the audience of over 1,100 at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane, central London.
“I will always be a strong defender of the Jewish people. I will always be an advocate for the State of Israel,” he said.
Cameron said that he has instructed Britain’s ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, to make one of his top priorities the building of a new partnership between the hi-tech economies of Israel and Britain.
In reference to the rocket and missile attacks from Gaza, the prime minister said that Israel has a right to protect itself.
“When rockets are being launched at Israeli citizens, and when children are in danger, Israel is within its rights to protect its people,” he said.
He also told guests that Israel has a right to search vessels entering Gaza.
“When over 100 rockets are fired into Israel from Gaza in one year, Israel is within its rights to search vessels bringing cargo into Gaza."
“But just as the Palestinian Authority has made significant steps to shoulder its responsibility, tackling violence from the West Bank, Israel needs to engineer a real drive to help improve life for ordinary Palestinians,” he said.
The prime minister said emphatically that anti-Semitism was “abhorrent” to him, vowing that he “will never rest” while the Jewish community in Britain feels under threat.
“A Jewish friend asked me the other day will it be safe for my children and grandchildren to live here? The answer to that question will always be ‘yes,’” Cameron said.
“Instead of ignoring extremism we have to confront it in all its forms, wherever it is found. That means, yes, banning preachers of hate from coming to our country. It means proscribing organizations that incite terrorism, and yes, it means stopping extremist groups from getting an audience on our university campuses.”
Addressing the Jewish community’s and Israel’s concern over an “insidious shift from legitimate debate to illegitimate intimidation,” the prime minister said that “it is absolutely right that in Britain’s universities, students and faculty should be able to criticize Israel, just as they can criticize any country, or any government, any politician."
“But it is absolutely wrong that in any of our universities there should be an environment where students are scared to express their Judaism or their Zionism freely. It is absolutely wrong that universities should allow speakers to spread messages of anti-Semitism and hate."
“And it is absolutely wrong for any university authorities to duck their responsibilities to ensure a clear line between free speech, which is a fundamental right, and intimidation, which is fundamentally wrong,” he said.
In reference to Universal Jurisdiction, the law exploited by pro-Palestinian activists to threaten to arrest Israeli dignitaries who enter the UK on “war crimes” charges, Cameron said his government has acted but needs to do more.
“In the same way when the UK’s laws were used to try and arrest Israeli politicians who visit our country, without any real prospect of prosecution, this government pledged to act: changing the law so people don’t fear coming here. That’s what I said we would do on Universal Jurisdiction. That is what we have done. But we need to do more.”
He also recognized that Israel is sometimes unfairly treated and judged differently.
“Some people try to judge Israel’s government by a higher code of conduct than they would apply to their own government,” he said.
Turning to the Middle East, the prime minister warned that now was not the time “to park” the peace process.
He urged Israel to seize the initiative in the negotiations with the Palestinians, saying that it was “absolutely vital” to secure this historic opportunity for peace and stability in the region. Rather we should use developments in the region to try to drive forward progress, not hold it up.
“And yes, it means meeting the road map obligation to halt illegal settlement activity, as the resolution Britain supported at the UN Security Council last month underlines,” he said.
He called on Israel help improve life for ordinary Palestinians, by allowing more humanitarian goods into Gaza and more support for economic development in the West Bank.
The prime minister paid tribute to Britain’s Jewish community for its sense of national pride and contribution to the wider community. He also praised the work of the CST.