“The fact that this is the hot ticket every year at the Conference shows clearly, visibly, unambiguously – that the Conservative Party was, is and will always be a staunch friend of Israel”, UK Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly declared at the packed-out Conservative Friends of Israel reception.
The Foreign Secretary made a keynote speech in front of a packed room of over 500 people alongside Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to the UK, Oren Marmorstein. A series of Cabinet Members and Ministers addressed the crowd, including Home Secretary Suella Braverman, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, Health Secretary Steve Barclay, Conservative Party Chairman Greg Hands, and Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt. The event was chaired by CFI’s Parliamentary Chairman (Lords) Rt. Hon. The Lord Pickles and also featured appearances from CFI’s Parliamentary Chairman (Commons) Rt. Hon Stephen Crabb MP, Chair of the UK Abraham Accords Group Rt. Hon. Liam Fox MP, and CFI’s Vice Chair Rt. Hon. Theresa Villiers MP.
Also in attendance was the Bahraini Ambassador, Holocaust survivor Hannah Lewis MBE and her husband David, and CFI Chair Hilda Worth.
Sharing memories from his Israel trip with CFI, the Foreign Secretary told over 500 attendees that “the first experience I had in the ‘apartheid’ state of Israel, just as the sun was touching the seas of the Mediterranean was the Islamic call to prayer from the Mosque next to our hotel”. CFI’s keynote speaker described Arab Israelis picnicking on the beach alongside those in swimwear “in perfect peace and harmony”.
The Minister also reaffirmed his recent statement after his visit to Israel that “Israel’s security is our security”. “Our support for their security will always be unwavering”, he concluded.
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, emphasised that the Conservative Party “understand that Israel always has and always will have a right to defend itself”. He added that he “is enormously proud” that in all of his years in the Conservative Party “not once have I experienced antisemitism”
Home Secretary Suella Braverman, also pledged her support to the Jewish State. “Israel represents defying the odds, resilience, democracy, freedom, strength, courage. And those values and that spirit of Israel and the Jewish community here in the UK is something unparalleled and incredibly powerful”.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay, highlighted that “the partnership with Israel is one that runs across Cabinet and across the Government as a whole”. “It is not just about defence, not just about security, what it is fundamentally about is values”, he added. “Beliefs in freedom, in choice, in individual liberty, in democracy, in security…are the deep-seated values that Israel and the United Kingdom share”.
Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt, acknowledged that “people in this room face incredible intimidation, death threats…originating from Iran” and are her “political heroes”.
“We have conspiracy theories, we have misinformation that is perpetuated about Israel and also the Jewish community”, she noted. “We need to get much more sophisticated in how we combat those lies”, she added.
Greg Hands, Conservative Party Chairman, “praise[d]” the work of CFI for their campaigning on behalf of the Party and for their “important” and “educational” delegations. He also discussed the Government’s “important work” on the Economic Activities of Public Bodies Bill “in making sure we’re stopping public bodies from boycotting Israel”. He underscored the “huge amount of trade we are doing with Israel” and noted the importance of technology and innovation.
CFI’s Parliamentary Chairman (Lords), The Lord Pickles, who chaired the event, lauded the Reception as the only reception “that you see all the Cabinet at and all the rising stars of the Conservative Party” and “frankly [I] can’t think of a better way to start the evening”.
CFI’s Parliamentary Chairman (Commons), Stephen Crabb, underscored that whilst “left-wingers [are] trying to delegitimise Israel, speaking down Israel, trying to trash the UK-Israel friendship, we have some great supporters who will stand up in the House of Commons and challenge them and make the case on why the state of Israel will last forever and why our friendship with it will last”.
Chair of the Abraham Accords Group, Rt. Hon. Dr Liam Fox MP defined the Abraham Accords as “one of the most important international, and most significant event in recent times”. He announced the Abraham Accords Start-Up Fund, which will signal to “young people in the region that there is a different way to do business, there is a different future to be had… based on mutual prosperity, and therefore mutual security”.
The former Defence Secretary urged the Government to proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). “We need to recognise the IRGC are a danger to the United Kingdom and our citizens,” he argued. The IRGC are guilty of war crimes and “guilty in complicity” of Russia’s war crimes”, he continued. The IRGC “are not just a threat to Israel, are not just a threat to the region, they are a threat to us, and a threat to our allies. A threat to our very values; values that we share of democracy, of human rights – of rule of law. All the things that matter to us.” “If damage is done to one of us it is done to the values of all of us”, he added.
CFI Vice Chair Rt. Hon. Theresa Villiers MP also urged the Government to “proscribe the IRGC for the terrorist organisation that it is”. She hailed the Abraham Accords as a “better future for the Middle East” but noted the “key threat…from Iran”.
She welcomed “prominent members of the Government com[ing] here this evening to show their commitment to CFI and to Israel”. “I believe that the history of the State of Israel should be an inspiration to all of us”, she added. “Founded in the aftermath of the horrors of the Holocaust, Israel has thrived and flourished, despite being surrounded by so many enemies”.
Oren Marmorstein, Israel’s chargé d’affaires to the UK also spoke at the Reception. He outlined Iran as Israel’s largest threat and that “Iranian aggression is becoming bolder and more concerning” and more “dangerous” than ever.
He warned that the Iranians are becoming closer and closer to the one thing they want most – a nuclear weapon”. He argued that “only two things can stop Iran from reaching this: crippling sanctions and a credible military threat”.
“Iran can never – and will never – have a nuclear weapon, and we will make sure this is the case no matter what it takes”, he added.
The Deputy Ambassador announced that there is “great hope coming from our region” including “our hopes and efforts to establish a peaceful relationship with Saudi Arabia”.
He described the CFI reception as “the best party” and paid tribute to CFI’s work.