As a Jewish Community, it is important that we recognise the good done by others on our behalf. History has taught us not to take for granted the understanding and consideration shown to us by the British premiers of the 21st Century, including Tony Blair and Gordon Brown from the last Labour Government.
There is no doubt that outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron has been a true friend to Jews in the UK. Assuming that his legacy is carried forth, British Jewry has a bright future. Below I’ll just discuss a few highlights of what David Cameron has done for us as a community.
Domestically, Mr Cameron’s premiership has overseen an increase in funding for the Community Security Trust (CST), a vital organisation dedicated towards the protection of the community. In the wake of attacks on Jewish targets in Paris and Copenhagen, as well as rising tensions across Europe, this is a much welcome advancement. The PM has made a number of speeches, including at a Norwood Charity Dinner back in 2014 where he stressed how “Anti-Semitism destroys our diverse society”.
Cameron has been at the forefront of the campaign to increase Holocaust Education. In January 2016, he announced a new Holocaust Memorial in London to stand alongside Parliament in Westminster. This was one of the key recommendations from Cameron’s Holocaust Commission from a year earlier.
When it comes to Israel, Mr Cameron has also showcased his credentials as a true friend. The Prime Minister visited the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, in 2014, and delivered a memorable speech to MK’s where he emphatically declared that his belief in Israel was ‘unbreakable’. UK-Israel trade having grown rapidly in recent years and currently worth in excess of £4.5 billion. Meanwhile, bilateral relations continue to grow in numerous fields including intelligence sharing, science, health and education.
During the Gaza conflict of 2014, the Prime Minister, together with Chancellor George Osborne, stood by Israel’s right to defend itself and did not give in to pressure to accuse the IDF of employing a disproportionate response to Hamas rocket fire. Furthermore, Mr Cameron has supported the Conservative Friends of Israel Group, which has provided broad support for Israel and today boasts significant Tory numbers, including all of the prospective leadership candidates.
Upon the announcement of his resignation on 24th June, a number of tributes were paid to Mr Cameron from the Israeli government reflecting the high regard Jerusalem holds him in, despite the odd comments about Gaza and East Jerusalem that punctured a mostly positive relationship. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called Cameron a “real gentleman” who showed a “profound friendship toward Israel.” Erdan credited Cameron with leading an important decision against the BDS movement when Britain banned local councils from boycotting Israeli goods. Haaretz went so far as to write up an article arguing whether he is the most Pro Israeli British Prime Minister.
This legacy of strong and positive relations seems to be in steady hands. Theresa May’s speech in 2015 marking Israel’s Independence Day was widely applauded. Her Cabinet role, Home Secretary, gives May a unique understanding and experience in areas such as terrorism, racism and combating extremism in all its forms. In the past she has asserted, “the safety of the Jewish People can never be taken for granted.” An appearance at the Board of Deputies soon after one of the Paris Attacks on a Jewish Supermarket underlined her commitment to stand with, and defend the British Jewish Community.
With mounting concerns over the affinity of those within the Labour Party towards anti-Semitism and related tropes, it evokes perhaps an even greater sense of jubilation that within the Conservative Party our community has such a bountiful supply of friends and allies. Not to mention, at a time where many ponder with cynicism and despair the broader future of Jews within the European continent.