CFI coordinates first Parliamentary Delegation to Israel in two years

By April 13 2022, 16:13 Delegations, Latest News No Comments

IMG-20220411-WA0008CFI coordinated a delegation to Israel and the Palestinian Authority last week with 9 Conservative parliamentarians, most of whom were elected in the 2019 General Election and were visiting for the first time. The visit was CFI’s first delegation since February 2020.

Delegates included Nickie Aiken MP, Lee Anderson MP, Sarah Atherton MP, Brendan Clarke-Smith MP, Virginia Crosbie MP, Fay Jones MP, Laurence Robertson MP, Greg Smith MP and James Sunderland MP.

The itinerary featured a series of high-level meetings with Israeli politicians, journalists, entrepreneurs and academics, as well as strategic briefings and visits to organisations that promote peaceful coexistence. The delegation also travelled to the West Bank, meeting Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah and visiting the first Palestinian-planned city in Rawabi.

The MPs recorded videos sharing their thoughts on the speakers and sites visited throughout the trip, which can be viewed on CFI’s Twitter account.

The delegation began with a briefing on Israel’s innovation ecosystem at Start-Up Nation Central HQ in Tel Aviv. The organisation facilitates partnerships between start-ups and businesses, governments, and academic institutions.

The parliamentarians heard about Israel’s high-tech success in dozens of industries including cyber security, agritech and digital healthcare. They later met with Yonatan Adiri, the founder and CEO of Healthy.io, a Tel Aviv-based healthcare company offering remote clinical testing and services using smartphone technology.

Greg Smith MP described the technology developed by Healthy.io as “revolutionary” and praised the “hugely innovative tech start-ups” in Israel. He was “delighted to hear” that Healthy.io’s technology is already in use in Buckinghamshire, saving the NHS money and enabling his constituents to test for serious health conditions such as kidney failure from home, without travelling to take a test. The MP for Buckingham wrote about the CFI delegation after the trip, saying that he was “proud to call [himself] a friend of Israel”.

The group visited the Israeli NGO Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) in Holon, where they met children from developing countries around the world receiving life-saving heart surgery from Israeli doctors, free-of-charge. Around half of over 6,000 children who have received the life-saving treatment are Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank. The parliamentarians also met Michael, an anaesthetist from Zambia receiving training at SACH.

Virginia Crosbie MP, who represents the constituency of Ynys Môn in North Wales, said the visit was “an absolutely fantastic start to an excellent week”.

The CFI delegation was hosted by the British Ambassador to Israel, H.E. Neil Wigan OBE, at his residence in Tel Aviv for an informative discussion on bilateral ties and an update on the progress of free trade negotiations.

The following day, the group travelled south to Israel’s border with Gaza, receiving a security briefing from the IDF on the threat Israel faces from the Hamas terror group. The delegates visited Sderot and Netiv HaAsara – two border communities where residents have been deeply affected by rocket attacks and border violence.

The Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, Fay Jones, reflected on the visit: “It has been an absolutely eye-opening trip, particularly today as we’ve met with the Israeli Defense Forces who have been talking us through Hamas’s capabilities and what they do to keep people safe here”. “We’ve been in a moshav… really quite close to the border with Gaza and they have been telling us how they live their lives under the constant threat of rockets and mortars”, she added.

In Tel Aviv, the delegation had dinner with Lahav Harkov, Diplomatic Correspondent at the Jerusalem Post. The group discussed concerns over Iran’s nuclear deal and regional security threats, as well as welcoming the Abraham Accords between Israel and her Gulf partners.

The delegation’s visit to the West Bank on Wednesday began with a tour of the first Palestinian-planned city of Rawabi, which seeks to be a prosperous centre for business and culture in the region, housing 40,000 residents.

In Ramallah, the group met with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Dr Mohammad Shtayyeh before receiving a briefing from Palestinian polling expert Dr Khalil Shikaki on the latest public opinion trends among Palestinians.

Conservative MP Nickie Aiken said the delegation had been “a really fascinating trip to understand both sides of this conflict”. She emphasised the importance of understanding “both sides of the argument and to listen and to hope that we can bring peace finally to this wonderful part of the world”.

In Jerusalem, the group met with Israeli diplomat Aliza Bin-Noun and legal adviser to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr Tal Becker, before meeting Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum for a lively discussion on Israeli politics and challenges facing the city.

On the final day of the trip, the group received a comprehensive tour of Israel’s security barrier from Col. (Res.) Dr Dany Tirza, the IDF’s chief architect for the security fence. Dr Tirza explained that 97% of the barrier consisted of chain-link fence and had been constructed as a response to Palestinian suicide attacks during the Second Intifada.

The delegation later paid a moving visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem and laid a wreath in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

During the delegation, the MPs also met with Israeli security expert and journalist Dr Jonathan Spyer, Israeli political expert Professor Reuven Hazan and founding editor of the Times of Israel, David Horovitz.

On the last night of the trip, the country was shaken by the news of a terror attack, with three Israelis killed in a shooting attack at a bar in Tel Aviv. On the final morning, Lee Anderson MP reflected that “after the terrible events of last night, the Israeli people still want peace, they still want to come together and they still see the two-state solution as a real possibility”.

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