British Foreign Secretary Mocks Labour Leader Over Israel

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has moved to reassure supporters of Israel of the government’s “unshakeable commitment” to the country, The Jewish Chronicle reported on Tuesday.

Speaking in front of a packed audience at the Conservative Friends of Israel event at the Tories’ annual conference, Hammond began his address by making light of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to refer to Israel by name at a similar event last week.

Corbyn has stirred up controversy due to his anti-Israel comments and by calling Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends”.

British Jews have voiced deep concern over Corbyn’s disturbing links to a wide range of extremists, spanning far- right holocaust deniers, an anti-Semitic Christian minister and Islamist terrorist groups.

But he nevertheless accepted an invitation to speak at Labour Friends of Israel’s (LFI) reception, where he gave a speech in which mentioned the “siege of Gaza” and even Syrian refugees, but didn’t say the word “Israel”, raising the ire of one audience member, who stood up at the end of the speech and repeatedly demanded Corbyn “say the word Israel!”

Hammond had a response to Corbyn in his speech before the ConservativeFriends of Israel, which he began by stating, “I’ve read the reports of Mr. Corbyn’s attendance at the Labour Friends of Israel meeting at Labour conference and I just want to say one word to you: Israel. I’ll say it again: Israel.”

More than 500 people attended the CFI event in Manchester on Tuesday evening, reported The Chronicle.

Among the ministers and party grandees at the reception were Business Secretary Sajid Javid, Wales Secretary Stephen Crabb, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, party chairman Lord Feldman and his deputy, Robert Halfon MP.

Hammond said, “I can make you a couple of promises and Mr. Corbyn can’t. I can promise you that I will never share a platform with Hezbollah. I can promise you that I will never describe anybody who launches indiscriminate rocket attacks against civilian populations as my friends.”

He reiterated his party’s support for Israel, explaining, “During the Gaza conflict last summer, the Prime Minister, I, and the Chancellor made a clear decision that we would stand behind Israel and defend what Israel was doing.”

“We took a bit of flack for it and we are proud of that, and we will stand behind Israel again when it is defending its right to exist and its right to defend itself against attacks,” Hammond added.

The Foreign Secretary repeated the government’s opposition to boycotts of Israel and said local authorities would not be allowed to introduce “politically-motivated disinvestment campaigns”.