Last night, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson addressed 1500 people at the annual B’nei Akiva Yom Ha’atzmaut event at Kinloss Synagogue, underlining his steadfast support for Israel as celebrations began for its 70th Independence Day.
Rt. Hon. Gavin Williamson MP reflected on the conclusion of Yom Hazikaron (the National Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror), when we “remember those who have given their lives in defence of Israel’s independence and those cruelly killed in acts of terrorism”.
He said it was an “honour” to join those in attendance “to celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday”, and added: “What Israel has achieved in mere seven decades is nothing short of remarkable… From those founding fathers who turned the desert into an oasis after the darkest period in Jewish history, Israel has blossomed”.
The Secretary of State for Defence described Israel as a “light unto the nations”, which exports its achievements around the world. He referred to the work of Israeli NGO Innovation:Africa, which “gives the gift of electricity and clean water to remote African villages”, and noted that Israeli humanitarian relief teams are often the first to arrive at natural disasters.
He added that not only do Israel and Britain face shared security threats; “our relationship is underpinned by a shared sense of values: justice, compassion, tolerance”.
The Defence Secretary underlined that Israel is a “liberal, free and exciting country”, and that the UK-Israel relationship is the “cornerstone of so much of what we do in the Middle East”.
He recounted the security challenges Israel faces, stating that Hamas rules Gaza with an “iron fist”, and just last week Israel destroyed the “longest and deepest” cross-border terror tunnel. He added that it was “chilling” to think what plans Hamas had for the tunnel.
Mr Williamson said that Israel also faces the threat of Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has “150,000 Iranian-supplied rockets” and “battle-hardened combat units” from bolstering President Assad in Syria.
Mr Williamson referred to the recent debate in Parliament on antisemitism, saying that the UK Government has a “zero-tolerance approach to racist ideology” and it is “committed to fighting antisemitism wherever it raises its ugly head”.
He made clear: “Antisemitism is a cancer within our society and it needs to be rooted out”.
The Defence Secretary thanked Mike Freer MP for inviting him to the event, and Israeli Ambassador H.E. Mark Regev for his friendship, and concluded by thanking B’nei Akiva for their commitment and leadership.
Ambassador Regev and the Chief Rabbi also addressed the event, with Ambassador Regev hailing the “strong and enduring relationship between Israel and the UK”, which makes both countries “healthier, smarter and safer”.
He highlighted “booming” bilateral trade of £6.9 billion in 2017, a 25% increase from the previous year.