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Parliamentarians, my fellow guests and speakers.
It is a pleasure to be with you at the LFI Annual Lunch this afternoon.
I want to thank the lunch sponsors, Sir David Garrard and Isaac Kaye, and all of you whose generosity makes this event possible.
On behalf of the State of Israel, I would also like to thank LFI and Steve McCabe MP for all your work.
And I join Steve in saying how delighted I am that we’re joined today by my friends, the ambassador of Bahrain and the deputy ambassadors of the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco.
Thanks to the Abraham Accords, we are – together – building a new Middle East:
new bridges between our peoples: Jews, Muslims and Christians alike;
a goal of shared prosperity;
and a common front against the mutual challenges of climate change, extremism and terrorism.
The State of Israel has always sought to maintain strong cross-party ties and support in the UK.
We know that whatever the political hue of the government in London or Jerusalem, the bonds between our two countries run deep and stretch back many decades.
They were forged at the time of the Balfour Declaration and have been strengthened over the years by our shared commitment to liberal democracy.
Today, a new chapter in the relationship between Israel and Britain is being written.
In civil society, we’re creating new social, cultural and educational ties.
In the fight against terrorism and threats to our national security, we’re cooperating more than ever – working together to keep our citizens safe.
And this cooperation extends to the pursuit for economic growth, prosperity and jobs, with our two countries striving for a better future for the British and Israeli people.
Just look at the statistics:
The UK is Israel’s second largest trading partner in goods & services, with £2.7 billion worth of British exports in 2020;
Last year, Israeli investment into the UK was worth over £200 million.
And our overall trade relationship worth nearly £5 billion – with trade in services growing substantially last year.
It is worth noting that Israel’s service sector has grown by 45% in 10 years – providing the UK with an opportunity to tap into an innovative and dynamic market.
Behind these statistics, the economic relationship between our two counties is evident in towns and cities up and down the UK:
- Nearly 10,000 UK businesses from across the country export and import goods to and from Israel.
- UK-Israel trade supports around 39,000 jobs in the UK and 34,000 jobs in Israel.
- And, of course, we’re very proud that Israeli firms provide up to 1 in 7 of the NHS’ drugs, saving the health service an estimated £2.9billion annually.
I hope that, with the ongoing negotiations for a renewed Free Trade Agreement between our two countries, we can boost our economic relationship even further.
After all, we are natural partners:
Our economies are based on innovation and the development of cutting-edge technology.
They’re underpinned by strong social protections and a commitment to the rule of law.
And we know that their future success and dynamism rests on a workforce which is highly skilled and treated with decency and fairness.
These talks – alongside the continued strengthening of the relationship between Britain and Israel over the past decade – are testament to the fact that the BDS movement is failing.
I would like to thank Keir Starmer and the Labour party for reaffirming your party’s opposition to BDS, for supporting stronger bilateral ties with Israel, and for your recognition of the security threats that our country faces.
Let me assure you, Israel will always extend the hand of peace to all those in the region who accept the right of our children to live free from the fear of violence, terrorism and war.
And where there are those who wish us harm, we will always defend ourselves. This means preventing Iran and its proxies – Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – from bringing violence, terrorism and war to the streets of Israel.
We have no quarrel with the people of Iran or Gaza.
We want for their children the peace and security that we want for our own children.
And we recognise that they too are victims of the regime in Tehran.
I urge our friends in Europe to help us combat this threat: ban the Islamic Guard Revolutionary Corps; crack down on arms smuggling; and cut off the proceeds of crime which flow to the terrorists’ bank accounts.
In short, I urge you to join with us to build a region free from fear.
I know that all of you in this room – friends of Israel and friends of peace – will stand with us in this endeavour.
We thank you for your support.