Sajid Javid has said he hopes other ministers will follow his lead in visiting the Kotel during future visits to the country, saying such a stop-off “shouldn’t have been so extraordinary”.
The Chancellor broke with tradition in visiting Judaism’s holiest site this summer during a trip to the region in which he also held talks with the Palestinian prime minister.
British ministers have stayed away for the nearly two decades for fear of being seen to step into the conflict – although Prince William during the first ever official Royal visit last year visited the site.
During a visit to Finchley and Golders Green today to support Tory candidate Mike Freer, he told Jewish News: “Visiting the western wall shouldn’t have been so extraordinary for a British minister. I think I was the first cabinet minister in around 20 years and I was very pleased I did. It was important to me and I’d like to see that happen much more frequently.”
Reflecting on two days of rocket attacks on Israel from Islamic Jihad following the assassination of a leader of the terror group, he also backed Israel’s right to respond. “Israel is one of our strongest allies,” he said. “We’ve always defended Israel’s right to defend itself especially from terrorism. It’s one of the reasons why as home secretary I fully banned Hezbollah. We will always take a hard line against terror, whether against ourselves or our allies.”
Finchley and Golders Green is set to be one of one of the country’s most hotly contested seats after former Labour MP Luciana Berger was picked to contest it for the Liberal Democrats. One of the UK’s most high-profile MPs partly through her very public battle against antisemitism, she is set to pick up votes in an area that voted by an estimated 69 percent to stay within the EU and a recent poll tipped her to triumph.
But Javid – who described Freer as an “outstanding” constituency representative – suggested the Tory was backed by the only party “that can deliver a deal within weeks and still keep a very close relationship with our European friends. People are democrats and they want to see the democracy being respected”.
He described Berger as a “good person” who’d faced “completely unacceptable” treatment while in Labour. But echoing Freer’s own message, he insisted: “Every single person in this constituency knows there are 2 outcomes – Boris Johnson with a Conservative government or Jeremy Corbyn with a Labour government. There is nothing else and Luciana would agree with that. A vote for anybody other than Mike therefore is a vote for Corbyn. If you’re going to think about voting for Luciana in this seat, no matter what your reasons, you may as well vote for Corbyn because that’s who you’re helping.
“He would not only be an economic disaster for this country but also the most divisive party leader this country had seen in generations. He has a serious problem with Jewish people.”
Visiting the area last week, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson repeated her guarantee she would not prop up a Labour government led by Corbyn.
Javid famously encouraged his fellow Tory leadership challengers to back an independent probe into Islamophobia in the party on live TV. He has since said it would cover all types of prejudice and would kick-off this year.