The international community must say with one voice that Palestinian statehood cannot come through violence and terror but only via dialogue and discussion, British Prime Minister David Cameron said in Jerusalem Wednesday, hours after a barrage of rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip.
Cameron, at a press conference with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at his residence, said that these rockets, fired at a civilian population, “underline the importance of guaranteeing Israel’s security, and any two-state solution has to have at its heart the guarantee of Israel’s safety and security, and the security of your people.”
Even before at least 30 rockets fell on the South from Gaza, Cameron, in a strikingly warm speech to the Knesset, said he appreciated well Israel’s vulnerability, “a vulnerability that has already seen 38 missiles from Gaza this year alone.”
Cameron, who arrived Wednesday for a 30-hour visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, his first visit to the region since assuming office in 2010, spelled out in his Knesset speech possible benefits of a peace deal, rather than chiding Israel for settlement construction.
After a brief and perfunctory mention in the address of the need for an end to settlement construction and Palestinian incitement, Cameron told the Knesset that it did not need lectures from him on how to make peace.
Rather, he said, “Imagine what this land would be like if a two-state solution was actually achieved. Think of all the aspects of life that would change: Israel’s relationships with the world, its security, its long-term prosperity, and the quality of life for all its people.”
He nodded at Israel’s demand that the Palestinians recognize it as the nation state of the Jewish people, saying, “Imagine, as John Kerry put it: ‘Mutual recognition of the nation state of the Palestinian people and the nation state of the Jewish people.’” What that would mean, he continued, was “an end to the outrageous lectures on human rights that Israel receives at the United Nations from the likes of Iran and North Korea. An end to the ridiculous situation where last year the United Nations General Assembly passed three times as many resolutions on Israel as on Syria, Iran and North Korea put together. No more excuses for the 32 countries in the United Nations who refuse to recognize Israel.”
Later, at the press conference with Netanyahu before their dinner meeting, Cameron was asked further about the settlement issue and about Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
On the first issue he restated London’s well-known position that it believes “settlement activity has to stop.” The reason for this is not because Britain was against Israel, he said, but because London believes a twostate solution is in the interest of both sides, and the settlements make that solution more difficult.
As for the Jewish state issue, Cameron said he did not come to the area – he is scheduled to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday afternoon – to impose himself into the negotiations. But, he added, to him “Israel is and will always be the homeland for the Jewish people; that is what the State of Israel was and is all about.”
Unlike the heckling that accompanied Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s address to the Knesset in January, and the Bayit Yehudi walkout during the speech to the Knesset last month by European Parliament President Martin Schulz, no backbench heckling interrupted Cameron’s speech. He did, however, witness haredi MKs walk out when Netanyahu rose to speak, and he heard the shouting that interrupted the prime minister’s address.
He also heard a very political speech by opposition head Isaac Herzog – also interrupted numerous times by heckling – bewailing the government’s behavior in the Knesset this week.
Cameron, upon taking the podium, quipped that had he opted to get away from Prime Minister’s Questions in the British Parliament, “evidently I’ve come to the wrong place.”
The British prime minister, who referred to his Jewish grandfather and great-grandfather and peppered his address with a few Hebrew phrases, said his belief in Israel was “unbreakable,” and that his commitment to Israel’s security “will always be rock solid.”
Cameron came out unequivocally against efforts to boycott Israel, saying that he was committed to Israeli-British cooperation.
“Britain opposes boycotts,” he said. “Whether it’s trade unions campaigning for the exclusion of Israelis or universities trying to stifle academic exchange, Israel’s place as a homeland for the Jewish people will never rest on hollow resolutions passed by amateur politicians.”
Cameron, under whose watch legislation was passed in Britain curbing universal jurisdiction and making it impossible to try Israeli leaders for war crimes, said to applause, “My country is open to you, and you are welcome to visit any time.”
The British prime minister said that his government had stood firm against anti-Semitism, “saying no to Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, whose abhorrent displays of anti-Semitism have no place in a tolerant and inclusive Britain.”
In addition, it had stood up to “protect Jewish practices” in Britain, he said.
“On my watch, shechita [ Jewish ritual slaughter] is safe in the UK.” he said.
Turning to Iran, Cameron dismissed the notion that Israel was somehow responsible for extremism around the globe.
“There is no rule that says if Israel and the Palestinians make peace, Iran is somehow going to dismantle its despotic regime or abandon its nuclear intentions,” he said. “That can only be done through sustained international pressure. I share your deep skepticism and great concern about Iran. I am not starry-eyed about the new regime. A nuclear-armed Iran is a threat to the whole world – not just to Israel. And with Israel and our allies, Britain will ensure that it is never allowed to happen.”
Netanyahu, in his address to the Knesset, said that international pressure must be not only on Israel but also on the Palestinians, who he said are refusing to show flexibility in the negotiations.
“Time is running out for them, too,” he said.
Referring to his demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, Netanyahu said that there was “enough room in this land for everybody,” but that it must be based on true historical facts.
“The Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish state is the root of the conflict, and not the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria,” he said.
In addition to his Knesset speech and meeting with Netanyahu, Cameron also met with President Shimon Peres and Herzog, and visited Yad Vashem.