Theresa May is set to become the UK’s new Prime Minister on Wednesday. She is a long-term and consistent supporter of Israel and the UK’s Jewish community, and has spoken at numerous Conservative Friends of Israel events throughout her time in Parliament.
Speaking at CFI’s Parliamentary Reception in September 2014, Mrs May underlined that the British Government would always support Israel’s right to defend its citizens from terror attacks: “No democratic government could, in the face of such danger, do anything but maintain a strong defence and security capability and be prepared to deploy it if necessary. That is why I – and the whole British Government – will always defend Israel’s right to defend itself”.
At the reception, she acknowledged that “Israel faces enemies intent on its very destruction” and “Hamas uses Palestinian civilians as human shields for its rockets”.
Theresa May visited Israel for the first time in June 2014, during which she met a number of leading Israeli officials and experts to discuss different aspects of UK cooperation with Israel, including on human trafficking, cyber security, modern slavery, and on policing.
During her visit, she met then-Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Interior Minister Gidon Sa’ar, and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch.
Commenting on her visit, she said: “On my first visit to Israel as Home Secretary, I was delighted to see first-hand the flourishing partnership between the UK and Israel. I held very positive discussions with my Israeli counterparts, and agreed a range of areas for future cooperation”.
She visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, laying a wreath at the Hall of Remembrance in memory of those who perished: “I was deeply moved by my visit to Yad Vashem. It is a powerful reminder of the most terrible crime of history. Remembering is sacred, and the UK stands committed to commemorating the Holocaust, the victims and the survivors”.
In April 2015, Theresa May spoke of her strong support for Israel and praised the UK’s Jewish community during her keynote speech at Bnei Akiva’s Yom Ha’aztmaut event to celebrate Israel’s 67th Anniversary, where she said that “the modern state of Israel is the fulfilment of many generations of struggle”.
She asserted in her speech: “It is a tragic fact of history that the Jewish people have had to protect themselves against repeated attempts to obliterate them, and that the safety of the Jewish people can never be taken for granted”.
She underlined further: “Without its Jews, Britain would not be Britain…Jewish people have long been an important and integral part of this country…We cherish the enormous contribution you make – not just in the past, but today and every day”.
As Home Secretary since 2010, Mrs May has taken robust action to combat anti-Semitism in the UK, adopting a series of measures and making clear that “ there is absolutely no place in our country for anti-Semitism”.
In March 2016, she announced the Government’s commitment of £13.4 million for security measures in the Jewish community in 2016, at the CST Annual Dinner – an increase of £2 million from the previous year.
She has worked closely with a number of organisations including the CST to tackle anti-Semitic attacks. With Mrs May as Home Secretary, £2.3 million of funding has been provided to organisations including the Anne Frank Trust, to help combat hate crimes and challenge discriminatory behaviour.
The Government also established a working group to tackle anti-Semitism, bringing together community representatives and experts from across government to help explore issues affecting Jewish communities.
Commenting on the news, CFI’s Parliamentary Chairman, Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP said today: “As a politician not known for hollow platitudes, Israel can rest assured that a UK led by Theresa May will be there in its moments of need”.
He said: “Theresa saw how terrorism affects Israel during her first visit to the country in the summer of 2014 when the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped by Hamas were found. She personally saw how deeply the sad events affected the country and was absolute in condemning the act of terror, vowing that “Britain stands with Israel”’
Sir Eric added: “It is through her experience as Home Secretary that Theresa has such a deep understanding of the seriousness of the threat radical Islam poses to the UK, Israel and wider international community. It will not be one that she takes lightly”.