In an article published by the Jewish Chronicle today, Lord Polak CBE praised former Prime Minister David Cameron’s “consistent support” of the Jewish community and Israel and welcomed his successor Theresa May.
CFI’s Honorary President reflected on “how fortunate we were” under David Cameron’s premiership, commending him for putting “the welfare, the well-being and the safety of the Jewish community very high on his list of priorities” during his time in office.
Lord Polak said that as early as David Cameron’s election to Parliament in 2001, the former Prime Minister clearly “understood the needs and challenges of the Jewish community”.
This understanding was later demonstrated, Lord Polak said, through the “consistent support he pledged on Jewish matters – from ensuring our freedom to perform shechita or brit milah, to encouraging the establishment of Jewish faith schools, and time and again supporting Israel’s right and obligation to defend its citizens in the face of terrorist threat”.
Lord Polak recalled that it was David Cameron, together with Theresa May as Home Secretary, who announced a huge £13.4 million commitment towards security measures for the Jewish community – an increase of £2 million from the previous year.
It was David Cameron who labelled anti-Semitism as an “absolute cancer in our society”, and “repeatedly called on Jeremy Corbyn to deal with the problem of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party”.
Perhaps his most important legacy will be “his commitment to Holocaust remembrance – an issue very close to his heart”, said Lord Polak.
During his term, David Cameron established a Holocaust Commission and instructed the building of a £50 million National Memorial to the Holocaust in Central London, the establishment of a world-class Learning Centre, and an endowment fund to secure Holocaust education indefinitely.
Lord Polak said that his own personal highlights were David Cameron’s two visits to Israel, in 2007 and 2014. A helicopter ride taken by Cameron in 2007 over Israel’s “narrow waistline” and his visit to Yad Vashem “made a lasting impression on him and went on to shape much of his understanding about the country”.
Lord Polak’s “proudest moment” in 26 years leading the Conservative Friends of Israel was the Cameron’s 2014 visit to the Knesset, where he “commanded the floor” in a “magnificent speech”.
The Knesset went quiet, he said, “as everyone listened intently to our Prime Minister, whose affinity with the Jewish people”.
At a Jewish Care dinner two weeks ago, in his final speech as Prime Minister to a Jewish communal organisation, Mr Cameron said: “I’m not just a great friend of the Jewish community here in Britain – I am also a great friend of Israel. I will never forget taking that helicopter ride in the skies above the homeland of the Jewish people. I saw with my own eyes the vulnerability of this narrow strip of land – but I also marvelled at what the Israelis have built there”.
Lord Polak expressed his dismay at Mr Cameron’s departure: “Often in life one only misses someone when they are gone. Well, David Cameron has left Downing Street but I am certain that his concern for the Jewish community and Israel will continue to be an important part of his life”.
Lord Polak welcomed his successor, stating that David Cameron’s legacy will be “maintained and build upon by our new Prime Minister Theresa May”, and underlined: “How fortunate we are”.
Click here to read Lord Polak’s article in full.