Described by fellow MP Theresa Villiers as one of Israel’s staunchest friends in Parliament, the Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, confirmed her determination to extend collaboration between Britain and Israel in her address to the Bicom/Jewish News conference last week.
Ms Patel, MP for Witham in Essex, said she was proud of the role which Britain had played in “helping to make a homeland for the Jewish people” and said that the Balfour centenary should be celebrated with pride.
“It is vital that we look forward to establishing security and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians,” she said, adding that Britain, a “close and reliable friend of Israel”, with a strong relationship based on “decades of co-operation”, was well placed to help that happen.
Britain’s commitment to Israel’s security remained “unwavering”, Ms Patel said, but added that there was “more than just a security challenge” in the Middle East, but also a development challenge, noting the volatile population shifts in the region and the vast numbers of refugees, the greatest such numbers since the end of the Second World War.
Some of the areas in the Middle East had become “fertile territory for extremist groups and organisations” and Ms Patel declared that within her ministry, DfID, there was a commitment to “ending hateful ideologies”, particularly in teaching in schools which sowed division between countries and communities.
The Secretary of State said she had seen for herself the work of Jewish charities in Israel, and said she was “struck by the achievements of the state of Israel. It was a country which started with nothing and is now a world leader in technology, life skills and vocational skills. It has a can-do attitude which is precisely the sort of Jewish homeland envisaged by Theodor Herzl, and i have long admired it.”
The Balfour Declaration, she said, had been “indispensable” in the creation of a great nation, “a liberal democracy and hi-tech nation”, and she believed there are many opportunities for Israel and Britain to extend and improve their partnership.