UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Tuesday scorned newly elected leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn MP for his failure to mention Israel by name at a meeting of his Labour party’s pro-Israel faction.
“I’ve read the reports of Mr. Corbyn’s attendance at the Labour Friends of Israel meeting at Labour Conference and I just want to say one word to you: Israel. I’ll say it again: Israel!”
Hammond addressed some 500 Conservative party parliamentarians and activists at the annual reception of the Conservative Friends of Israel reception.
Corbyn, who has been accused of being empathetic to Hamas and Hezbollah — terror groups committed to destroying Israel — is widely regarded as one of the British MPs most hostile to Israel.
“I can make you a couple of promises and Mr. Corbyn can’t,” Hammond said. “I can promise you that I will never share a platform with Hezbollah. I can promise you that I will never describe anybody who launches indiscriminate rocket attacks against civilian populations as my friends.”
The event was held on the sidelines of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.
Corbyn, who was voted Labour Party leader by a large majority last month, was heckled by a member of the audience for avoiding saying the word “Israel” as he addressed the Labour Friends of Israel group at his party’s annual conference.
At the end of Corbyn’s speech, which focused on renewing dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians and advocating a return to the peace process, a man at the back of the room shouted, “Say the word Israel. Say the word Israel.”
The heckler was abruptly removed from the room, leaving an embarrassed looking Corbyn on stage alongside his deputy leader Tom Watson and shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn.
Hammond on Tuesday also declared his opposition to boycotts targeting Israel and referred to planned regulations aimed at preventing local councils from using pensions and procurement policies to back boycotts of Israel.
“Under a Conservative Government, Britain rejects the concept of boycotts. The new changes will stop politically motivated disinvestment campaigns, stop local authority boycotts of goods. Under a Conservative government, our foreign policy will be made in the Foreign Office and not in hundreds of Labour-controlled town halls,” Hammond said.
CFI’s Parliamentary Chairman, Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP, applauded the plans to prevent local council boycotts on Israel.
“Thank you very much indeed for banning, for outlawing municipal boycotts of Israel,” he said. “And thank you for ensuring that councils now have to invest, not on a basis of politics but on the basis of what’s a good investment for their pensioners.”
Times of Israel staff and JTA contributed to this report.