In Knesset, Cameron pans ‘abhorrent’ attacks on Israel

Addressing MKs, British PM calls Iranian arms ship ‘another despicable attempt’ by Tehran to smuggle weapons into Gaza

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

UK Prime Minister David Cameron addresses the Knesset, March 12, 2014 (photo credit: Knesset spokesperson)
UK Prime Minister David Cameron addresses the Knesset, March 12, 2014 (photo credit: Knesset spokesperson)

British Prime Minister David Cameron, in an address to the Knesset Wednesday afternoon, stressed his country’s backing for Israeli efforts to achieve peace and security, and promised his support in combating international attempts to boycott and sanction the Jewish state.

“Delegitimizing the State of Israel is wrong,” he said. “It’s abhorrent. And together we will defeat it.”

“You have a British prime minister whose belief in Israel is unbreakable and whose commitment to Israel’s security will always be rock-solid,” Cameron pledged.

The British prime minister emphasized his support for “the long and rightful search of a people for a nation, and the right for the Jewish people to live a peaceful and prosperous life in Israel.”

Cameron was adamant about his position against efforts to boycott Israel. “Britain opposes boycotts. Whether it’s trade unions campaigning for the exclusion of Israelis or universities trying to stifle academic exchange, Israel’s place as a homeland for the Jewish people will never rest on hollow resolutions passed by amateur politicians.”

Cameron also referenced his own Jewish great-great-grandfather, and another ancestor who penned the first Yiddish novel.

Painting a picture of a vibrant and open Middle East after a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, Cameron said he understood Israeli security concerns, and backed Jerusalem’s right to defend itself.

I will always stand up for the right of Israel to defend its citizens — a right enshrined in international law, in natural justice and fundamental morality, and in decades of common endeavor between Israel and her allies.”

Turning to last week’s interception of the Klos C ship carrying Iranian arms, Cameron called the incident “yet another despicable attempt by the Iranians to smuggle more long-range rockets into Gaza… It gave me a renewed understanding of what it must be like to be afraid in your own home.”

The British prime minister praised ongoing efforts by US Secretary of State John Kerry to forge a peace agreement between Israelis and the PA.

“We back the compromises needed — including the halt to settlement activity and an end to Palestinian incitement too,” he said. “And we recognize the difficult and courageous decisions both sides are taking, not least with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s decision to release terrorist prisoners, with all the anguish that can bring for affected families.”

Cameron outlined a vision of “a proper lasting peace that allows a strong moderate Palestinian government to end the fears of a failed state on Israel’s border… a deal that means an end of all claims — and an end of all conflict… Israelis and Palestinians no longer each other’s enemy, but actually working together to maintain security against those who would seek to harm us all.”

Cameron directed harsh criticism at Iran. “There is no rule that says if Israel and the Palestinians make peace, Iran is somehow going to dismantle its despotic regime or abandon its nuclear intentions,” he said.

“That can only be done through sustained international pressure. I share your deep skepticism and great concern about Iran. I am not starry-eyed about the new regime. A nuclear armed Iran is a threat to the whole world — not just to Israel and with Israel and all our allies. Britain will ensure that is never allowed to happen.”

Cameron promised that the trend in some European countries to ban core Jewish practices would not take root in the UK.

“The Jewish community has been an absolute exemplar in integrating into British life in every way,” said Cameron, “but integration doesn’t mean that you have to give up things that you hold very dear in your religion. When people challenged kosher shehita. I have defended it. I fought as a back-bench Member of Parliament against the last attempt to do something to change this. And there’s no way I’m allowing that to change now I’m prime minister.”

“On my watch shehita is safe in the UK,” he said.

“Israel’s technology is protecting British and NATO troops in Afghanistan,” Cameron said, lauding the benefits Israeli technology has brought the UK. “It is providing Britain’s National Health Service with one in six of its prescription medicines through Teva and it has produced the world’s first commercially available upright walking technology which enabled a British paraplegic woman to walk the 2012 London Marathon. And together British and Israeli technical expertise can achieve so much more.”

Netanyahu addressed the Knesset before Cameron did, praising Britain for its contributions to democracy, free enterprise, science, culture, and art. He also lauded the Balfour Declaration that outlined British support for a Jewish national home in Mandatory Palestine.

In a week that has seen controversial legislation passed by the Knesset, including a law raising the number of votes needed to enter parliament and a measure to draft ultra-Orthodox men, Haredi and Arab MKs walked out during Netanyahu’s speech. They returned to hear opposition chief Isaac Herzog and Cameron.

Netanyahu’s remarks were repeatedly interrupted by MKs Michal Rozin and Esawi Frij. After repeated warnings, Frij was removed from the Knesset floor.

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