CFI Parliamentary Chairman, Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP, wrote an article published in ConservativeHome this week about the high-profile delegation to Israel that he led in July with CFI’s new team of Parliamentary Officers.
Sir Eric said: “With Israel seemingly the most oft-discussed foreign affairs issue in Parliament, it is crucial that Members of Parliament visit the country to see it with their own eyes and make their own informed judgements”.
He detailed how the visit gave the MPs the opportunity an in-depth insight into the country’s security threats from Hamas and Hezbollah rockets, terror tunnels from Gaza; Iranian aggression towards Israel; Israel’s scientific advancement; and the country’s global humanitarian aid.
Speaking of Israel’s multiple security threats, Sir Eric said: “To the north, Hezbollah has established its own terror state within Lebanon. Its estimated arsenal of 100,000 rockets dwarfs the one it had at the time of the 2006 war. ISIS has shattered the states formerly known as Iraq and Syria. To the south, ISIS and Salafist groups have established a foothold in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula, and have their eyes on Gaza and Jordan. Israel is unquestionably at the coalface of the fight against Islamist extremism”.
Sir Eric underlined: “A visit to the Knesset provided a timely reminder of Israel’s extraordinary democratic credentials. The group benefited from meetings with the Labor MK Hilik Bar; with Yair Lapid, the leader of Yesh Atid, and with senior Government figures from Likud, including Tzipi Hotovely, the Deputy Foreign Minister. An emotional belief in Israel was expressed strongly by Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s President, who spoke movingly of his family’s roots in Jerusalem going back to the early nineteenth century”.
Concluding his article, he stated: “The whole CFI Parliamentary team returned to the UK with a renewed energy to tell stories of these oft-overlooked aspects of Israel. It’s high-time that discourse in the UK involving Israel ventured beyond the conflict”.
During their visit, the delegation met with the President of Israel Reuven Rivlin and senior Government figures, including Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely. At the Knesset, the group met with Yesh Atid leader, Yair Lapid, and the Co-Chairman of the Israel-United Kingdom Parliamentary Friendship Group, Hilik Bar MK. The MPs also met with Her Majesty’s new Ambassador to Israel, H.E. David Quarrey.
The packed itinerary also included a visit to Sderot in southern Israel to see the remains of Hamas rockets, in addition to the Netiv Ha’Asara moshav where MPs saw the entrance to a Hamas cross-border terror tunnel, and the beach in Zikim kibbutz where Hamas terrorists attempted to launch a terror attack from the sea last summer. In Ashkelon, the group visited one of the world’s largest desalination plants, before visiting Save A Child’s Heart in Holon to meet with Palestinian children from Gaza and the West Bank receiving life-saving heart surgery.
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