Home Secretary Theresa May

Home Secretary Theresa May

Theresa May has vowed the British Government will always speak up for Israel’s right to defend itself as the state’s ambassador hailed David Cameron’s response to the Gaza conflict.

The Home Secretary spoke at a Conservative Friends of Israel reception in Westminster, during which she reiterated the threats to the state, including from Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.

She said: “No democratic government could, in the face of such danger, do anything but maintain a strong defence and security capability and be prepared to deploy it if necessary. That is why I – and the whole British Government – will always defend Israel’s right to defend itself.”

But it was important for all those sympathetic to Israel’s security situation to make clear that loss of civilian life is “an appalling tragedy”, she added.

She told the 300-strong gathering, including 50 parliamentarians: “When Israel faces enemies intent on its very destruction, when Hamas uses Palestinian civilians as human shields for its rockets, when there are thousands of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, it is easy to talk about a two-state solution but almost impossible to know how to move towards one.

But that does not mean we can afford to give up. “Taking even the smallest of steps towards a lasting peaceful settlement will take acts of huge political bravery and great statesmanship on both sides of the divide – but they are steps that need to be taken.”

Also at Tuesday’s reception, Ambassador Daniel Taub decried a lack of understanding in parts of society about the Gaza crisis and the “huge moral gulf” between Israel and Hamas.

“One of the clearest of those voices [of understanding, support, or principled and moral clarity] was that of David Cameron and the government of this country,” he said.