Leading politicians from the UK and Israel lined up to pay tribute to Stuart Polak after he entered the House of Lords.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid was among those hailing the contribution of the long-time director of Conservative Friend of Israel after he was introduced to the chamber by Lords Grade and Sterling.
“We don’t have a House of Lords in Israel but if we did you would have had a seat there a long time ago, between Kafka and Einstein and Bob Dylan,” Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid told the new peer at a Westminster reception celebrating his ennoblement. “We would have title Lord Stuart Polak, guardian of the Jewish people.
“The Jewish existence, says Stuart, is not only a trust for us Jews but for the entire world. He didn’t bring the British public a soft and diluted version of this responsibility but fought for it every day and every hour – making sure they obligate themselves to the wellbeing of Israel as the ultimate expression of independent Jewish existence.”
He added: “With the atmosphere towards Israel in Europe and the UK – presently company excluded – to see someone appointed to the House of Lords for his work and love for the state of Israel seems as unlikely as seeing Jeremy Corbyn become leader of the labour party”
Former Communities Secretary Sir Eric Pickles, the parliamentary chair of CFI, described the elevation of Lord Polak of Hertsmere as “a great thing” for Britain as well as Israel, while Chief Rabbi spoke of the community’s pride in “one of the greatest gems of British Jewry”. Ephraim Mirvis – who spoke of the party as a “Kiddush in the Methodist Hall – looked forward to further “spectacular achievements” in his continuing efforts to strengthen bilateral ties.
Lord Polak – who said CFI had moved from a “reasonably active organisation to one somewhat feared” in parliament – paid tribute to his colleagues and family, who he said remained the most important “club” in his life. But he described his elevation as a “huge privilege and promise to use it well”.
James Gurd will become executive director of CFI.