Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech to the Conservative Friends of Israel, given on 20th June 1995.
To go to Israel and Jerusalem at any time is special. As a committed friend of Israel, I was especially glad to have the opportunity to make the visit. Jerusalem, in particular, is unique, whatever one’s background. John Ward and John Marshall, who came with me, the latter in his capacity as Chairman of the British/Israel Parliamentary Group, will I am sure attest to that.
Thank you for inviting me this afternoon. I recognise many faces here from the very enjoyable occasion six months or so ago, when I spoke to the Joint Israel Appeal -
However, it is now some three months since my visit. So I thought you might appreciate some reflections on it, and to hear about some of the practical ways in which it is being followed up.
The reasons for my going, and the importance of Britain’s relationship with Israel, need no underlining to this audience. The ties between our peoples go back much further than the founding of the State of Israel. The Jewish community here in the United Kingdom has contributed enormously to British life. Looking round me, I know that that will continue.
There have been difficult times in the past. But it was particularly poignant to visit Israel in the year that we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of VE-
I was glad to have the opportunity to pay tribute to the sacrifices of Jewish parachutists, dropped behind enemy lines at appalling risk and often terrible costs -
Yad Vashem, which I visited early during my stay, bears heart-
So I went to Israel to reaffirm the importance of our relationship -
During my visit, I spoke about the “menorah” of relationships that tie together our two countries:
I also went to Israel, of course, to try and give a boost to the peace process. No-
We all recognise that, in the longer term, Israel must reach an accommodation with her neighbours and take her rightful place in the region.
Here in Britain, we will continue firmly to support the peace process. I know that you in the CFI take the same view. Negotiations with the Palestinians will remain essential to Israel’s future. The negotiations are bound to be complex and difficult, and the terrorists will go on trying to destroy the process. But it can be in neither side’s long-
Here, I might say a word about my visit to Mr Arafat in Gaza. Our talk produced, I think, some useful movement.
You may remember that I announced during my visit Palestinian agreement that the EU should co-
During my visit I announced further aid for the Palestinians. We have since announced a further £2 million as a contribution to recurrent costs. This brings our total aid package to over £83 million over three years.
Meanwhile, progress is being made on the Palestinian track. It is excellent news that the two sides expect to reach agreement on elections and redeployment, even if they do not quite meet the target date of 1 July.
There is also some encouraging news on the Syrian track. Negotiations on security arrangements are due to start in Washington on 27 June. There is still a wide gap on substance. But I am glad to see that movement has resumed.
I thought you might be interested to hear too of some of the ways in which our two countries’ business communities have been following-
We shall for instance be following-
The Council will establish working groups on infrastructure, health and education, financial services and hi-
Following my visit, BT have agreed a partnership with Israeli companies in the telecoms sector. Cable and Wireless have purchased 7% of Bezeq.
I have been glad to see, too, the start of triangular collaboration, involving UK, Israeli and Palestinian firms. An English company, Agrifarm, have obtained an EU contract for a feasibility study on the establishment of a marketing company for Palestinian agricultural and horticultural produce.
The DTI is holding its first Levant-
We will be looking at proposals for Business Parks along the borders of Israel and the Occupied Territories, and hope to see British involvement.
We will be inviting Israel’s Chief Scientist to visit Britain to discuss joint research and development activities.
The first disbursements from the UK/Israel Science and Technology Research Fund, which we doubled in March, should be made this summer.
Racial Harassment in the UK
One other subject to mention before I close, not directly connected with my visit, but to which I attach the greatest importance. It was one of the major subjects raised when the Board of Deputies came to see me a few months ago, so I know the Jewish Community gives it a similar priority.
Namely the subject of racial harassment and the threat of extremism. There is a problem of extremism, right and left, running right the way across Europe. Its scale in Britain is still small. But that is no consolation. I am absolutely determined that London will not become a centre for extremists, British, Islamic or otherwise. The publications and activities of organisations like the so-
I do not need to spell out to this audience the Government’s implacable opposition to such activity. We have already taken steps to deal with it. Last year’s changes to the Criminal Justice Act, for instance, give the police the power of arrest in relation to the publication or the distribution of material likely to incite racial hatred. They are using it. Earlier this year, as perhaps you know, the Metropolitan Police caught two Combat 18 members distributing literature, and subsequently seized material.
The prosecuting authorities are aware of the Government’s views. The police and Crown Prosecuting authorities will pursue vigorously the possibility of prosecutions whenever the evidence so justifies. You need be in no doubt that I firmly support this approach.
So in all the ways I have mentioned, we are actively taking forward and deepening the relationship. And when I say “we”, I mean just that. Not just Government, but businessmen, politicians, teachers, musicians, scientists and so on.
Most attention is rightly focused on the peace process; and there will be some critical months ahead in that respect.
But it is important, too, to remember the many other levels on which the British/Israel relationship exists. We are determined to go on taking forward that relationship, both as a Government and as Conservatives.