CFI Parliamentary Chairman, Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to London this week will “highlight the deep bilateral relationship” between Britain and Israel, in an article published in ConservativeHome today.
Sir Eric underlined that the UK-Israel relationship is “based on shared values; democracy, equality, and the rule of law”.
He wrote: “There will certainly be no shortage of symbolism behind the visit. The democratically elected leader of the Jewish state visits London in the centenary year of the Balfour Declaration… Prime Minister May has already spoken of the UK’s “pride” in “creating a homeland for the Jewish people” at the Conservative Friends of Israel’s Annual Business Lunch last December, and the UK’s historic role will undoubtedly form part of the discussions”.
Emphasising the staunch partnership between the two countries, Sir Eric said that the “cyber and intelligence relationship is stronger than ever” and added that “an incredible one-in-six generic prescription drugs provided by the NHS comes from Israel”. He also said that the “British Army has for years used Israeli supplied drone technology, saving untold numbers of British lives on battlefields around the world”.
Highlighting the flourishing bilateral trade links, Sir Eric said: “Trade between the UK and Israel is also at a record high, with total bilateral trade amounting to £4 billion in 2015″.
Sir Eric explained that “Israel was one of the first countries to grasp that post-Brexit the UK would be stepping out into the world and it would be fitting were the UK to sign its first free trade deal with the Middle East’s only true democracy. The building bricks are there and International Trade Minister Mark Garnier has already visited to set wheels in motion”.
Writing that “our relationship with Israel makes Brits safer, healthier, and more prosperous”, Sir Eric added: “at a time of violence and unrest throughout the region, Israel has been an invaluable source of stability. Its economy continues to prosper, its people remain resilient and its Government remains committed to securing the ultimate goal of a lasting peace deal with its Palestinian neighbours”.
He said that Iran’s “nuclear ambition and support for international terrorism” will also feature high on the agenda for discussion. Sir Eric said: “In such an uncertain world, the UK would do well to heed PM Netanyahu’s call for a ‘common stand’ against Iranian aggression and the many risks it poses”.
Regarding the issue of settlements, which are reported to be on the agenda for discussion, Sir Eric said: “While settlements are unhelpful, it’s important not to lose sight of the broader context. Israel has a long history of evacuating settlements in the interest in peace, and remains committed to this principle despite the painful experience of Hamas exploiting Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza to wage terror”.
Click here to read Sir Eric’s article in ConservativeHome.