Thatcher and us: a timeline


May 1979
Margaret Thatcher becomes Prime Minister and appoints seven Jewish ministers to her government. She makes David Wolfson her chief of staff. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin visits Downing Street later the same month. Secret papers revealed in 2010 that Mrs Thatcher saw the Israeli PM as “the most difficult” man she had to deal with in the early years of her premiership.

June 1980
Around 1,000 Jewish residents from Mrs Thatcher’s constituency gather at Finchley Synagogue to protest against her government’s Middle East policies. She was a founding member of the Finchley Anglo-Israel Friendship League.

January 1981
Mrs Thatcher writes to Conservative Friends of Israel, of which she was a founding member, to say the “integrity and security of the state of Israel is of paramount importance to the British government”.

January 1981
A reshuffle sees a doubling of the number of Jews in the Cabinet.

July 1981
Mrs Thatcher attacks Mr Begin and says Israel’s response to violence from Lebanon is wholly disproportionate.
September 1982
Mrs Thatcher says the deaths of Palestinian refugees in the Shatila and Sabra camps in Lebanon were “a barbaric act”.

March 1983
Downing Street intervenes to stop Israel appointing former Irgun member Eliahu Lankin as envoy to Britain.

July 1984
Mrs Thatcher opens the Manor House Centre for Judaism in her constituency. She meets hundreds of Jewish residents and talks of her pride in the area’s Jewish community.

October 1984
Jewish leaders rally to Mrs Thatcher following the Brighton bombing.

October 1985
Diplomatic relations deteriorate between Britain and Israel after two PLO members are invited to London. Jewish organisations ask the Prime Minister to reconsider.

January 1986
Israeli PM Shimon Peres visits London and holds “warm, intimate” talks with Mrs Thatcher. They discuss peace talks between Israel and Jordan.

January 1986
Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits’s study, From Doom to Hope, emphasises Jewish self-help rather than reliance on state welfare and benefit. Mrs Thatcher admired his views. He was knighted in 1981 and later given a peerage. The two became close and Lady Jakobovits continued to visit Mrs Thatcher until her own death in 2010.

May 1986
Mrs Thatcher becomes the first serving Prime Minister to visit Israel.

January 1987
Mrs Thatcher weeps during a meeting on the plight of Soviet Jewry, a cause she repeatedly supported throughout her premiership.

February 1990
Israel should talk to the Palestinians and swap land for peace, Mrs Thatcher tells the Board of Deputies at a meeting to mark its 230th anniversary. She receives a standing ovation after praising the Jewish community’s contribution to Britain.

March 1991
No longer Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher is the guest speaker at the retirement dinner held to honour Chief Rabbi Jakobovits. She declares herself a “Jakobovite”.

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