The new leader of the Liberal Democrats has told a meeting with Jewish representatives that he plans to visit Israel and that his party “instinctively shares the values” of the Jewish community.
Tim Farron, who replaced Nick Clegg as leader following last year’s election drubbing, will be hoping to rebuild his party’s relations with the community after a tense period over statements made by former MP David Ward and its position on the Gaza conflict.
Domestic and foreign policy issues were at the heart of the meeting’s agenda. Key issues included community security, anti-semitism, and de-legitimisation of Israel in the UK, the social care sector, education and Jewish schools, and matters of religious practice, such as shechita and brit milah. On the foreign policy front, Israel, the Palestine and the Middle East Peace Process were discussed at length.
Community security, anti-Semitism, social care, delegitimisation of Israel and education were among the domestic and international issues on the agenda for the delegation, led by Jewish leadership Council chair Sir Mick Davis and including figures from the Board of Deputies and Community Security Trust.
Sir Mick said: “Mr Farron was very warm and understanding of our views. He reaffirmed the importance of religious practice and education and shares our concerns about the future of the social care sector. We discussed the situation in Israel and the wave of attacks against Israeli civilians, the peace process, and our concerns about efforts to delegitimise Israel in the UK and issues around our community’s security.
“Mr Farron unequivocally denounced anti-semitism. He reaffirmed both countries right to live in peace and security and recommitted the Liberal Democrats to supporting a two-state solution negotiated by the parties in good faith. He acknowledged and shared our very serious concerns about efforts to boycott and delegitimise Israel, whether in the UK or elsewhere. We are delighted that he hopes to travel to the region and offered any assistance in making his trip a success.”
Farron – who accepted an invitation to visit communal institutions in north London – said: “I welcome the opportunity to meet with the Jewish communal leadership. I believe liberals and the Jewish community instinctively share many values in common, a commitment to education and appreciation of self-improvement and support for family and the wider community. I hope we will continue to meet regularly to discuss issues of mutual concern, share ideas and challenge one another in a constructive spirit.”
Also taking part in the meeting was Lord Palmer, one of the Lib Dems 100 peers and also a member of the JLC’s council.