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UK and Israel stand united as allies in this great celebration

It is heartening to reflect on the status of the UK-Israel relationship 100 years after the Balfour Declaration, say Lord Polak and Lord Mendelsohn

    Lords Edmund Allenby, Arthur Balfour and Sir Herbert Samuel, at Hebrew University in 1925. (Library of Congress)
    Lords Edmund Allenby, Arthur Balfour and Sir Herbert Samuel, at Hebrew University in 1925. (Library of Congress)

    One hundred years on from the Balfour Declaration, the UK and Israel stand united as allies in celebration.

    We welcome Prime Minister Theresa May’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to celebrate the centenary in London this week, and proudly join the government in honouring this landmark anniversary.

    As we do so, it is heartening to reflect on the status of the UK-Israel relationship, which has gone from strength to strength. Bilateral trade has reached record highs of over £5.5 billion and there is a multitude of agreements and joint ventures between our countries in academia, technology, medicine, defence, intelligence-sharing and the arts.

    But there is more that can be done. As the UK embarks on a new path outside of the EU, we have opportunities to maximise our indispensable trading relationship with Israel and our cooperation in all areas. We must continue to explore avenues for further trade, further sharing of talent and further cooperation in scientific innovation between our two countries.

    In part, the UK-Israel partnership is so successful because of how vastly we mutually benefit from each other’s towering expertise across many fields. It is our shared values however – the belief in democracy, in tolerance, in liberalism - that stand as the cornerstone of our enduring friendship.

    The Balfour Declaration’s centenary also provides an opportunity to pay homage to Israel’s many and remarkable contributions to the world.

    A tiny country that has defied obstacles in geography, size and diplomacy, it can today boast of being one of the most technologically advanced nations on earth, with an enormous number of inventions and innovations to its name.

    Most importantly of all, the establishment of Israel granted a persecuted people a safe and secure homeland.

    Beginning its life as a place of refuge, Israel became a home for both Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and Jews expelled by the Arab and Muslim world.

    More than 800,000 Jews were forced out from countries in the Middle East and North Africa between 1948 and 1972, a plight that is often overlooked. 600,000 sought shelter in Israel.

    There remain those today who cannot bear the thought of a prospering Jewish state but for most, the existence of Israel exemplifies the victory of tolerance and liberalism over hatred and bigotry.

    We should be proud that Britain led the official international recognition of the Jewish right to self-determination, ultimately leading to the establishment of one of the world’s greatest success stories and bringing an end to two millennia of exile and persecution.

     

    Lord Polak (left) is honorary president of Conservative Friends of Israel. Lord Mendelsohn is former chairman of Labour Friends of Israel

     

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