George Osborne tells of his warmth for CST and Israel

Osborne says he is 'proud' of working with CST and pledges ongoing friendship

By Jenni Frazer, March 1, 2012
CST chair Gerald Ronson, Met Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe and Chancellor George Osborne

CST chair Gerald Ronson, Met Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe and Chancellor George Osborne

Chancellor George Osborne robustly defended the decisions of his colleague, Education Secretary Michael Gove, when he addressed the annual Community Security Trust dinner on Wednesday night.

Mr Gove recently came under fire over his decision to make funding available for security for Jewish schools through grants given via the CST.

Mr Osborne, in an at times emotional address, told the 1,000-strong audience: "We know that security costs are a significant financial burden for the Jewish community. And we don't believe you should have to pay to protect your own children when they go to school.

"It is bad enough that they have to be educated protected by security guards and big gates. So we have provided funding for security guards at 42 Jewish schools. And we have guaranteed it until 2015".

And he added, pointedly: "We are proud to have done it and we are proud to have done it through the CST. And the Guardian can print that next time it decides to attack the CST on Holocaust Memorial Day."

Praising the work done by CST, the Chancellor said: "The extraordinary thing is that your annual report is ultimately not a depressing document. It is an uplifting one. Because it tells the tale of a community that has organised itself to ensure security and protection for its members... To read the CST's account of its work is to be aware, not just of man's inhumanity to man, but of man's dedication to man.

"That is the triumph of the CST".

Turning his attention to the Middle East, Mr Osborne, who helped launch the UK-Israel Technology Hub in Tel Aviv just four months ago, spoke warmly of his own and the government's friendship for Israel and its commitment to "the right of the people of Israel to live in peace and in security alongside a state for the Palestinian people.

"We are friends of Israel. And we welcome Israelis to Britain. Our coalition government has legislated on universal jurisdiction to make sure that Israeli officials and ministers can come to this country free from fear of politically motivated attempts to arrest them. And it was right that we did so".

He urged broadcasters and media to tell a different story when they wrote about Israel. "Don't just speak about bombs, terror and arms. Tell the story of the technology, the hospitals, the creative work. Never forget the enterprise, liberty, prosperity and caring - they are all part of the story of Israel, too."

Recalling a visit to Israel eight years ago when he stood in Tel Aviv's Carmel Market after a suicide bomb, Mr Osborne said he had been accompanied by then-MP Boris Johnson. The event, he said, had made Mr Johnson a lifelong friend of Israel. With London's mayoral elections in sight, Mr Osborne said that what was needed was Mr Johnson, "not a mayor that is no friend to the Jewish community."

Mr Osborne, like Ambassador Daniel Taub, took the opportunity to send a message to Baroness Tonge, whose resignation from the LibDems was announced at the dinner. The Chancellor said: "Jenny Tonge - the state of Israel is going to be around a lot longer than you!" Ambassador Taub's message was as tough: "We have no intention of going anywhere."

Mr Osborne issued a public call to Syria's President Assad to stand down. And he won sustained applause when he declared: "It is the determined policy of the British government that Iran not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons."

Last updated: 4:01pm, March 1 2012