Conservative leader David Cameron wooed the Jewish community in four separate encounters this week.
He spoke at a lunch and a dinner, held private talks with the Jewish Leadership Council executive and yesterday was due to open a centre for autistic adults at the Norwood Ravenswood home in Berkshire.
At the Conservative Friends of Israel annual business lunch last Thursday, attended by dozens of MPs and peers, he told supporters that his belief in the Jewish state was “indestructible”.
Mr Cameron also attacked the government’s stance on tackling antisemitism and extremism, claiming not enough had been done to reassure the Jewish community. He said former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was wrong to include controversial Jewish-American radio host Michael Savage on a list of extremists while ignoring Islamic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Ibrahim Moussawi, the Hizbollah media relations officer.
Repeating his call for Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir to be proscribed, Mr Cameron said: “I will stand firm against antisemitism in all its forms and wherever it occurs. It’s time to send out a clear message. If you sow bigotry, hatred and division, there is no place for you in British life.”
On Monday night, Mr Cameron told the Jewish Care fundraising dinner that he agreed with the Chief Rabbi that “for any society, the family is the crucible of the future.” And he distanced himself from Baroness Thatcher when he said: “We believe that there is such a thing as society.”
The tone of the meeting with the JLC — held at its request — was said to have been positive. Mr Cameron’s rejection of the view that solving the Israel-Palestine conflict would solve all the problems of the Middle East found particular favour with the JLC leadership.
The chair of one Jewish charity, who did not want to be named, said it was wrong to regard the meetings as a charm offensive by Mr Cameron. “Maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe the community is trying to charm him, as he is likely to be the next prime minister.”
But the Conservative leader came under attack for the decision to link his MEPs in the new European Conservatives and Reformists Group with some seemingly antisemitic parties. Labour MP Denis MacShane, chairman of the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, said: “The Conservatives have linked up with some very odd-ball parties. Some have representatives in the EU associated with antisemitic outfits like Radio Marya in Poland and, in general, parties with extremist positions.”
Stuart Polak of CFI said, however: “The new group’s leader is Tim Kirkhope, who is chairman of the European Conservative Friends of Israel, so he is hardly likely to be associating with extremists.”