Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Israel’s Foreign Secretary Yair Lapid hailed UK-Israel relations in science, technology and security – on the same day that a free trade agreement was signed between the countries.
Speaking at the annual Conservative Friends of Israel fundraising lunch today – which was attended by Cabinet Ministers and 200 MPs amongst the 600 guests – they pledged to enhance ties between the countries in a range of fields.
The leaders confirmed that the Memorandum of Understanding on Strategic Co-operation – which was jointly signed by UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Mr Lapid – was a free trade agreement between the countries that would strengthen economic, security, technology and cultural ties between the countries.
They went onto praise the UK government’s joint pledge with Israel to prevent Iran accessing nuclear weapons – as well as the UK’s decision to proscribe Hamas as a terrorist organisation.
Speaking at the event, which was held at the Park Plaza hotel in Westminster, the Prime Minister described Iran as a “hostile state”.
Criticising Iran’s support of terror regimes, Mr Johnson said: “Along with our European and American friends, we will continue to do everything we can, to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
He added: “If you can count on my support, and our support, for Israel, you can certainly count on our support, this government’s support, in the struggle against antisemitism.
“Our fight against antisemitism at home, where tragically, the thousand year old sores of that virus have continued to incubate beneath the floorboards of our country.”
The Prime Minister also acknowledged the positive uptake of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in both the UK and Israel.
He said that guests were able to attend the event, because of the “power of vaccinations”.
Encouraging guests to get their Covid-19 booster jab, he said: “We don’t have all the answers but we do know this. If you are boosted your response to this variant is likely to be stronger. And that is the most important thing.”
Mr Johnson described the countries as “two science superpowers”.
He said the UK and Israel were united as liberal democracies who shared “that rationalism and joint belief in vaccinations…
“I think it’s driven in both of our countries, a respect and understanding for science and for technology and the miracles that science can perform.”
He noted that there would be a new Israel-Britain Partnership Fund, focussed on scientific research. He also called on guests to attend the UK-Israel Innovation Summit taking place in London in March.
Mr Johnson and Mr Lapid – both former journalists – were presented with chanukiahs by CFI honorary president Lord Polak, to mark the Jewish festival of Chanukah this week.
Taking to the stand, Mr Lapid spoke about Israel’s security measures – and the lessons it learnt from the UK.
He said: “Britain taught the world an unforgettable lesson. Whoever is unwilling to fight for freedom, won’t get it.
“It is still true today…
“There is such a thing as good and evil.”
He added: “We have the right to defend ourselves. Our children will not grow up in shelters, under rocket fire – something the British know something about.”
Mr Lapid continued: “My children have the army, my children have the Mossad, my children are the sons and daughters of a free nation. When I look around the room, I see my children have friends that will stand with them.”
Acknowledging the decision to proscribe Hamas, which came after the move to proscribe Hezbollah in 2019, Lord Polak publicly for the proscription of The Islamic Revolutionary Guard, the branch of the Iranian army.
Politicians and high profile figures – from Home Secretary Priti Patel, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwartend, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi to Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and former Chancellor George Osborne – freely mingled around the room over the course of the event, which ran for more than two hours. As a nod to the Abraham Accords, Ambassadors from Jordan, Bahrain and the UAE were also at the event.
Guests laughed at jokes made by the Prime Minister, including his memories of attending the opening of the event’s hotel, lighting the Chanukah installation at Trafalgar Square when he was Mayor of London with a “blow torch”, saying it was “a miracle that I survived”. He also reflected on his time at a kibbutz in Israel aged 18, saying that though he was put on “washing-up duty” for two weeks, the experience made him a staunch supporter of Israel. “What I did see in Israel, which at that time was the only incontestably democratic country in the Middle East, I saw what an incredible place it was.
“All my life I have been a defender and supporter of Israel. I am very proud that the government I am leading, is also a staunch defender and supporter of Israel… it is a relationship that is getting stronger”. He went on to welcome trade ties, noting that 10,000 companies between the two counties accounted for £4.6bn in bilateral trade.
Highlighting the importance of relations, Mr Johnson said he did “deplore” the treatment of Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, which sawsecurity rush her off London School of Economics premises after protests last month.
Lord Polak thanked the Metropolitan Police and The Community Trust for protecting guests at the high-security event in Westminster.
Source » thejc