Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set the agenda for his meeting with British premier David Cameron on Wednesday morning, saying his country was Europe’s “only defence” against radical Islam.
Netanyahu’s remarks were made in Israel, as he boarded a plane for the UK. “The two will discuss diplomatic, strategic and bilateral issues, as well as joint challenges in the fields of security, economics and cyber security,” said an Israeli embassy spokeswoman. “Prime Minister Netanyahu will also meet with British MPs and Jewish community leaders.”
Beforehand, hundreds of pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protesters faced off outside Downing Street. Activists from groups such as Stop the War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Jews for Justice for Palestinians accused Netanyahu of being a war criminal, with Hezbollah flags among those waved.
At times, the demonstrators’ behaviour appeared to be anti-Semitic, with one man captured on video holding a coin up to the pro-Israel supporters, saying: “Money is all you understand.”
Jewish supporters journeyed to the capital from as far afield as Scotland, with several grassroots organisations represented, the Zionist Federation and Sussex Friends of Israel among them.
“We’re really proud that the full spectrum of groups – both Jewish and non-Jewish, communal and grassroots – were able to mobilise numbers today,” said ZF director Arieh Miller. “There were Israeli flags and Union Jacks on our side, Hezbollah flags and child-killer slurs on theirs.”
“This anti-Israel rally is not about war crimes,” said Joseph Cohen, an activist from Israel Advocacy Movement, a new group.
“It is an attempt by Israel’s detractors to deny her the right to defend herself against those committed to her destruction, and to politically isolate Israel in the corridors of Westminster.”
Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, welcomed Netanyahu and his wife Sara to the UK, saying: “His visit is particularly significant as our community enjoys great freedom and security in the UK and our deep and close relationship with the State of Israel plays an ever more important role in our culture and identity.”