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Britain's Theresa May highlights 'common values' in pro-Israel speech

British Prime Minister Theresa May, seen leaving 10 Downing Street November 16, 2016, is due to further outline her budget plans later November 21, 2016 at the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry
Niklas Halle'n (AFP/File)
May's speech comes after her calls to adopt an official definition for anti-Semitism

British Prime Minister Theresa May addressed attendees at the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) lunch on Tuesday with a warm and optimistic speech highlighting mutual values and the importance of the British-Israel relationship.

As cited by the Conservative Home website, in a long and warm speech Theresa May expressed her outlook on the two nations' collaboration in various areas, ranging from economic ties, counter-terrorism expertise, cyber security, health care and more. She stressed both countries' "common values" and urged for greater and stronger ties.

May opened her speech with a quote from the Balfour declaration, which will be entering its centenary, and said that Great Britain would be marking the occasion "with pride."

"On the 2nd of November 1917, the then Foreign Secretary – a Conservative Foreign Secretary – Arthur James Balfour wrote: 'His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.'"

"It is one of the most important letters in history," she said. "It demonstrates Britain’s vital role in creating a homeland for the Jewish people. And it is an anniversary we will be marking with pride."

Stephane De Sakutin (AFP/File)

Furthermore, May mentioned her own favorable impressions from her visit to Israel and thanked the CFI for inviting conservative MP's to visit Israel.

"As I realized during my visit [to Israel] in 2014 – seeing is believing. For it is only when you walk through Jerusalem or Tel Aviv that you see a country where people of all religions and sexualities are free and equal in the eyes of the law," May said.

"It is only when you travel across the country that you realize it is only the size of Wales – and appreciate even more the impact it has on the world."

May also noted that there is still much to do concerning the two state solution. She urged for zero tolerance towards the "illegal" Israeli settlements in the West Bank in order to reach the goal of a two state solution.

"We in Britain stand very firmly for a two-state solution. And we know that the way to achieve that is for the two sides to sit down together, without preconditions, and work towards that lasting solution for all their people," May said.

As part of what she referred to as a strive for fair and tolerant societies, May condemned anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activism in Britain and criticized the Labour Party's approach to dealing with Jew-hatred.

According to the Jewish Chronicle, May received a prolonged standing ovation at the Westminster lunch, with more than 800 people and over 200 Parliamentarians in the crowd.

May's speech comes after reports on her intention to adopt an official definition for anti-Semitism in order to deal with a rise in such incidents in Britain.

The definition, prepared by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), defines anti-Semitism as "a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities."

Britain will become one of the first countries to use such a definition.

The adoption of the definition comes two months after the publication of a damning report by a UK Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry which delivered harsh criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, the National Union of Students, and social media giant Twitter for failing to adequately and appropriately address what it called a “pernicious form of hate.”


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