Tobias Ellwood, the Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, has hailed the “important” relationship between the UK and Israel – adding that he intends to take his constituency’s football team AFC Bournemouth to visit the country.
Mr Ellwood, the Tory MP for Bournemouth East, made the comments at an Israel Independence Day celebration organised by the Israeli embassy on Monday evening.
Speaking at the event, he hailed bilateral ties from trade to academia in addition to a series of high profile dignitary visits, adding: “I hope also to organise a visit, of course, by AFC Bournemouth, who continue to be in the Premier League in case you weren’t aware of that, to Israel as well.”
He pointed out that Bournemouth was twinned with the northern Israeli city of Netanya.
Mr Ellwood said during his last visit to Israel, he managed to “squeeze in a visit to Netanya”.
He said: “If you haven’t visited Netanya, there are two reasons why you should go.
“Firstly, it is because it’s almost, or is, as wonderful as Bournemouth. Secondly, you have the most wonderful Mayor in Miriam Feirberg, who is the equivalent of Margaret Thatcher in Israel.
“She’s absolutely wonderful and it was a real pleasure to meet with her and strengthen the bonds between our two towns.”
Hundreds of people, including diplomats and peers across the political spectrum, attended the central London Yom Ha’atzmaut event yesterday. Guests dined on Israeli-style food, including shwarma, salads, pitta and baklava for dessert.
Many of them queued to shake hands with Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev, who officially took up the post last month.
At the event, Ambassador Regev thanked guests for attending.
He said: “The state of Israel is 68 years young. We have, in Israel, so much that we can be proud of. I personally am honoured to be standing here before you for the first time on Independence Day as the Ambassador of my country.”
He hailed Israel as “an amazing success story,” adding: “We have gone from being a stateless, homeless people to becoming sovereign and independent again. Having been powerless in the face of persecution and victims of violent attacks, we, the Jewish people, now have the power to defend ourselves.
“We have taken in millions of penniless refugees and made them proud citizens of a free county. We have welcomed people in from all four corners of the earth and successfully forged a pluralistic, yet united, society.
“We have revived and revitalised our ancient national language. And without any national resources, we have a dynamic first world economy. Israel leads in innovation, Israel leads in high-tech, Israel leads in cyber. Israel leads in Nobel Prize laureates.”
He went on to hail the agriculture and water solutions developed by the country, adding that: “Despite our small size, Israel is among the first to provide humanitarian assistance across the globe.”
He added: “In a region plagued by tyranny and extremism, we have built a stable democracy where all citizens have equal rights – Jew and non-Jew alike – in the volatile and dangerous Middle East, Israel stands out as the beacon of stability and freedom.”