David Cameron has pledged Israel will remain an ally and friend of Israel as long as he is prime minister and insisted the Middle East peace he craves “does not start by giving into terrorists”.

The prime minister’s words came in a wide-ranging address to the Norwood annual dinner during which he also pointed to signs of Britain’s economic recovery and boasted: “Britain is back.”

cowellnorwoodAddressing 1,300 guests – including music mogul Simon Cowell and business leaders Sir Philip Green and Baroness Karen Brady – Cameron insisted Islamic State would be defeated.

He said: And just as we are prepared to use force to defend ourselves so we will always stand up for the right of Israel to defend its citizens too – a right enshrined in international law, in natural justice and fundamental morality.” While he longed for a lasting peace, Cameron said “that peace does not start with giving into terrorists. It has to be built on the values that make a country successful. And that begins with the rule of law.”

And to huge applause he added: “Israel is our ally. Israel is our friend. And with me as prime minister that will never change.” Cameron had received a spontaneous standing ovation for his support for the community and Israel even got up to speak, following his defence of Israel’s operation against Hamas this summer.

Reflecting on the recent upsurge of anti-Semitic incidents here, Cameron told Monday’s gathering at the Grosvenor House Hotel that “the full force of the law” would be used to prosecute perpetrators, adding that there was never any excuse for anti-Semitism.” Cameron said: “It destroys that diverse yet strong society that we are proud to have in this country of ours. And I promise you I will fight anti-Semitism in this country, wherever it is found.”

He also revealed that the Holocaust Commission he set up to offer recommendations on what more Britain can do to remember the Shoah will report to him on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in January. And he hailed the opportunity for immigrants who come to Britain with nothing – including those on the Kindertransport and Ugandan Asians – and to thrive as one of the aspects that made Britain great.

Another matter for pride was the spirit of charity, he told the gathering, highlighting Mitzvah Day and Norwood’s supporters and volunteers. He said: “Yes there is a Big Society in Britain. But I didn’t create it. The British people did. I just want to give it voice and boost it wherever I can.. There’s no better example of it than right here in this room.”

norwood32Reflecting on his own experiences as the father of a disabled child, he said: “I know what the support of a charity like Norwood can mean. What you do and what you are funding quite simply changes lives.” He also stressed how the charity “epitomised sense of togetherness” and helped Jews and non-Jews alike.

The evening – which raised £3.6m – also saw him honour Norwood volunteer Douglas Silas, who has battled a rare debilitating nerve condition, as the latest recipient of a Point of Light Award. He has helped raised £125,000 by cycling through Sri Lanka, Madagascar and Israel with teammates Stephen Harrison and Paul Tuhrim.

norwood2In a rare break from posing for photos with scores of fans who surrounded him all night, Norwood patron Cowell also addressed the gathering, saying the charity’s work was “humbling, often inspiring”.

It was at the same dinner in 2008 that Cowell’s relationship with the charity began and also when he first talked publicly about discovering his father was Jewish. The X-Factor creator, who was accompanied by girlfriend Lauren Silverman, said he had felt like “my soul had been fed” on that occasion, adding that finding out his Dad was Jewish was a big part of his life and supporting Norwood had become so too.

WATCH DAVID CAMERON’S SPEECH: