Benjamin Netanyahu congratulates David Cameron on his speech (Photo: AP)
In his address to the Knesset on Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron reaffirmed Britain’s commitment to Israel’s security and the peace process and reiterated his steadfast opposition to any legislation against shechita in Britain.
Mr Cameron’s wide-ranging speech, which was the high-point of his 24-hour visit, looked back to his family history (he mentioned his own Jewish ancestors, the Levitas) and forward to a future in which Israel is at peace with its neighbours.
Accompanied by British Shoah survivors, he mentioned the Holocaust Commission he recently established but said that Israel’s roots go “far beyond that horrific suffering of a generation. It is about remembering the long and rightful search of a people for a nation”.
Mr Cameron acknowledged that Gaza has become “a base for terrorist attacks”, citing the Iranian attempt to smuggle missiles there last week.
He also remarked that his government had led the push for the EU to ban Hizbollah’s military wing.
Reminding MKs that it was his government that amended the universal jurisdiction legislation that put senior Israelis in danger of arrest in Britain, he said: “My country is open to you. And you are welcome to visit any time”.
In a message to British Jews, Mr Cameron listed the actions his administration has taken against antisemitism, including the Home Office’s decisions to refuse entry to racist preachers and, most recently, to French antisemitic comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala.
He also referred to the recent religious slaughter controversy, saying: “When people challenged kosher shechita, I defended it. On my watch, shechita is safe in the UK.”
Extolling Israel’s technology and business ties with Britain, he reiterated his staunch opposition to boycotts. “Delegitimising the state of Israel is wrong. It’s abhorrent. And together we will defeat it.”
Even when Mr Cameron outlined his vision for peace in the region, he was careful not to provoke mainstream Israeli politicians. “People come to this parliament… to tell you how to run your peace process. I will not do that. You know I want peace and a two-state solution. You don’t need lectures from me about how to get there.”
The last part of his speech was dedicated to describing the threats Britain and Israel face together: terror, extremism and the Iranian nuclear programme. He promised: “Anachnu beyachad [We are with you].”
Mr Cameron’s message was as non-confrontational as possible — designed, as one diplomat said, “to support the peace process and the relationship, not to pressure Israel in any way.”
At the start of his first meeting with Mr Cameron, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We have two robust democracies, technological societies, that I believe can seize the future by co-operating together.”
Mr Cameron’s visit included meetings with President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem. He also toured the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial with members of his new Holocaust commission.