New defence secretary tells CFI: ‘Britain will always be Israel’s friend’
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

New defence secretary tells CFI: ‘Britain will always be Israel’s friend’

Gavin Williamson chooses the Conservative Friends of Israel parliamentary reception to make one of his first public appearances in his new role

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Gavin Williamson speaking at the CFI event
Gavin Williamson speaking at the CFI event

Britain’s new Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson, made the annual Conservative Friends of Israel parliamentary reception one of his first public appearances in his new role — and made a passionate case for Britain to maintain a close partnership with the Jewish state.

Speaking at a packed reception on the terrace of the Houses of Parliament, Mr Williamson, promoted by Prime Minister Theresa May from chief whip in her latest reshuffle, said: “Britain will always be Israel’s friend.” The two countries had “an amazing relationship”, he said. “We were at the birth of the nation and we have today a partnership of equals, of friends. Israel is that beacon of light, in a region where there is so much hatred.

“What are we in politics if we cannot accept and celebrate the wonderful blooming of democracy that is Israel, but instead turn to spite, envy, and sheer simple hatred? And that is happening among some elements in politics today, and sadly, it seems to be becoming more and more acceptable. None of us should ever stand for that. We have to call it out at every single opportunity. It is my hope that the relationship between our two countries grows and prospers.”

Mr Williamson admitted, to laughter, that to date his only visit to Israel had been when he was 13 — when he had been very impressed by “your female defence forces”. And he added that when he had been Parliamentary Private Secretary to David Cameron, the then Prime Minister had been considering the latest British military acquisition, an armoured vehicle called the Scout.

“David said — well, I won’t say say exactly what he said, but he made it clear he didn’t think it was a very good name. He said, in Israel, they have great names for things, like Iron Dome. And I see in this room my Minister for Defence Procurement, [the Welsh MP Guto Bebb], and I order him, take inspiration from Israel [in naming military hardware]. If he does not do this, we expect his resignation!”

But later, speaking to the Jewish News, Mr Williamson disclosed another possibility. As chief whip he famously had a tarantula on his desk, said by many to be used as a coercive device when he dealt with recalcitrant MPs. Now the tarantula, named Cronus, is in Mr Williamson’s parliamentary offices — and he told the Jewish News that Britain’s next military acquisition might well be named after the tarantula. [Cronus was one of the Titans of Greek mythology].

The reception, attended by many MPs and peers, including the veteran Europhile Ken Clarke, the former Chancellor, was addressed by the CFI parliamentary chair, Stephen Crabb MP, and Israeli ambassador Mark Regev. Treasurer Stephen Massey gave the vote of thanks.

Help perform the greatest mitzvah: save a life

While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.

That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.

We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.

Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”

read more:
comments