Britain’s Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson has hailed the UK’s “amazing relationship” with Israel, calling the Jewish state a “beacon of light” in the Middle East and condemning the “unreasonable hatred” directed toward it.
Williamson was speaking an annual parliamentary reception organized by Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) on Tuesday.
Addressing an audience of over 250 CFI supporters, including 50 parliamentarians and Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, Williamson praised Israel as a “beacon of light and hope, in a region where there is so much hatred and hurt. We shouldn’t underestimate how difficult it is to keep that light bright and burning.”
Speaking of his visit to the country as a teenager, Williamson said: “I didn’t quite know what to expect of Israel. What I found was a liberal, free, exciting country that was so at ease with itself, a country that absorbed and welcomed so many people. That made an enormous impression upon me.”
Williamson condemned the often “completely unreasonable … sheer simple hatred” channeled toward Israel. He asked: “If we are not there to stand up for a country whose views and ideals are so close, or are simply our own, what are we as a nation? What are we in politics, if we cannot accept and celebrate the wonderful blooming of democracy that is Israel, but instead always turn to a narrative of spite, envy?”
Highlighting the UK’s role in the creation of Israel, he said the two countries have “a strong and firm relationship of working together. It’s a relationship of partners. We learn a lot from Israel and I hope that Israeli forces also a little from us. It’s a partnership of equals. A partnership of friends.”
Williamson praised Israel for its “impressive” military investment and noted that “Israel has to take its defense so seriously. If it does not take its defense seriously then it is not protecting itself as a nation.”
“Britain will always be there to work with you, support you, and be one of your closest and best friends,” he added. “Our relationship with [Israel] is the cornerstone of so much of what we do in the Middle East, and I look forward to having the opportunity when I am defense secretary to continue to build on that.”