Ambassador Mark Regev Speech to LFI Annual Lunch 2016
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Deputy Leader Tom Watson,
Lords and Ladies,
Members of Parliament,
Friends of Israel,
It is a pleasure being here this afternoon.
I wish to start by thanking your Parliamentary Chair Joan Ryan MP, your House of Lords Chair Baroness Ramsay, Jennifer, and the entire LFI team;
You can all be proud of the fact that you are sending more delegations to Israel than ever before;
And you have trebled your support in Parliament over the past year.
I would like to express my appreciation to Sir David and to Isaac for helping to bring us together today;
And I also wish to welcome your new Parliamentary Vice Chairs, Sharon Hodgson, Pat McFadden and John Spellar.
Friends, in 1917, nine months before the British government issued the Balfour Declaration;
Labour and the TUC jointly agreed a policy in favour of a Jewish homeland;
They said that, like all other peoples;
Jews too have the right to independence.
This policy was an act of social justice;
An act driven by the fundamental belief that, by supporting the Jews, the labour movement was righting an historic wrong.
And this policy was cemented by the close cooperation and solidarity shared by the labour movements of both our nations;
A bond so close that a leading figure in the TUC, George Isaacs, said to its conference of 1936:
“It seems to me that the new Star of Bethlehem now shining over Jerusalem is the Star of Socialism.”
In 1948, the Jewish state declared independence;
In that declaration, Israel embraced many of the values that labour movements across the world continue to champion today:
“The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace;
It will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex;
And it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.”
The British labour movement and democratic socialists across the planet embraced the rebirth of the Jewish state;
Indeed, it was the left-wing firebrand parliamentarian Eric Heffer that said:
“When Israel was established by resolution of the UN, like most Socialists, I was delighted.”
Today, the values upon which Israel was reborn remain integral to its character:
It stands out as the Middle East’s only liberal, tolerant, pluralistic democracy;
The only country in the Middle East with a free trade union movement;
The only country where women, LGBT people, and those of all races enjoy freedom and equality;
And the only country that enshrines in law freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.
So let us celebrate that fact;
For this is a real achievement, especially in a region tormented by demagoguery, terror and bloodshed;
And where the very freedoms enjoyed by Britons and Israelis are unfortunately all too rare.
Friends, 69 years ago today, the United Nations approved its partition plan for Mandatory Palestine;
The Jewish people agreed to compromise, while the Arab world violently rejected dialogue;
And today, Israel continues to seek a just, secure and lasting peace with all its neighbours, including the Palestinians.
Friends, every day, the sound of vigorous debate reverberates across Israel, across the Knesset, and across the Israeli press;
But unfortunately, sometimes the debate on the Middle East in this country is somewhat less considered.
I therefore wish to express my appreciation to LFI for the work it does in helping to foster a more considered discussion;
A discussion that is imperative to coexistence and securing a lasting peace.
Friends, I thank you for your friendship and support;
And I wish you all the best as you continue to make the case for Israel;
For two states for two peoples;
And for peace.
Thank you very much.