EXCLUSIVE: David Cameron's full speech to Conservative Friends of Israel lunch
See exclusively on The Commentator, David Cameron's speech to the Conservative Friends of Israel business lunch on December 11th 2012
It’s a real pleasure to be back here at the CFI lunch.
There are some people I want to thank Michael Heller for hosting us, James Arbuthnot – who does a fantastic job leading CFI in Parliament and of course, Ambassador Daniel Taub for joining us today.
Let me start by saying this:
Two and a half years into my job as Prime Minister, it’s true that I’ve changed in some ways. But there is something that has absolutely, categorically not changed about me – and that is my commitment to Israel.
I’m not an acquaintance of Israel.
I’m not a colleague of Israel.
I am a passionate friend of Israel – and that’s the way it’s going to stay.
So it’s great to be here today. It is a fantastic job that Stuart and the CFI team do in getting people out to Israel – because seeing really is believing.
It’s only when you visit the Lebanese border as I have done, when you look through binoculars and see the Hezbollah flags just hundreds of yards away, that you can really understand the fear that so many Israelis live with day-in, day-out.
It is vital, important work CFI does in getting people out there on the ground in Israel – and I want to thank you for that.
Now for years in Opposition we celebrated the contribution of British Jews in our country. We promised to stand up for Israel and in Government that’s exactly what we’ve done.
We said it was ridiculous that Israeli officials felt unable to visit Britain because of the malicious and unfounded use of arrest warrants so we changed the law to end it.
We said we wouldn’t allow preachers of hate into our country – and al Qaradawi had the door to Britain slammed in his face.
And while we’re on al Qaradawi, let’s remember: we helped keep in the Mayor who talks up the Jewish community rather than talking it down and helped keep out the Mayor of London who cosied up to poisonous ideologues.
We said we’d resist calls for boycotts on Israel and yes – we are going to keep on working with Israel, doing business with Israel, trading with Israel.
It’s been two years since I last spoke at this lunch and a lot has happened in that time.
Turmoil in the Eurozone, endless emergency summits, an Arab spring, war in Libya.
But I would argue the biggest change of all is the one that’s being felt everywhere from the trading floors of Wall Street to the factory floors of Jakarta.
It’s the global race we’re in today.
Countries in the South and East surging forward. The West slowing down. Europe faltering.
This is a crucial moment for countries like ours: do or decline, when we sink or we swim.
Our success has got to making hard choices, paying down our debts, sorting out our welfare systems, shaking up our schools.
That is what we’re doing.
The deficit – cut by one quarter in two years.
Welfare – undergoing its most profound change for generations.
And crucially, we are replacing that scandalous tolerance of mediocrity in education with a pursuit of excellence, tougher exams, harder subjects, more discipline, no more excuses for failure.
And let me celebrate the people in this room who have invested in Academies and free schools that are transforming state education - David Meller, Stanley Fink, Gerald Ronson, Jonathan Green - you are pioneers of Britain’s education revolution and of the Big Society and we salute you for the work you are doing.
All of this adds up to the big mission of this government: making sure that in this century, as in the last – Britain is on the rise.
And if we’re looking for other countries that can help inspire us in this global race, there’s no doubt in my mind that one of them is Israel.
We hear all this talk about the BRIC countries versus the rest of us, but Israel is growing faster than Russia – and almost twice as fast as Brazil.
It’s got more start-up businesses per head than any other country.
The big question is: how do they do it?
Yes, it’s about Israel getting its debts down, investing in education, signing free trade agreements, but it’s more than that – it’s about the aspiration and drive of its people.
These are people who have innovated around every problem that life has thrown at them.
The land is dry - so they come up with new water technology.
There’s little oil – so they find other energy alternatives.
So we want to work much more closely with Israel – on innovation, on technology.
Just last week the UK-Israel Tech Hub and UKTI brought 19 Israeli tech companies over here to meet the best of British companies and investors.
And I am delighted to announce today that we are appointing Saul Klein, someone with huge experience in early-stage investment, to be the UK’s first tech envoy to Israel.
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