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Israel has featured prominently at this week's annual Conservative Party conference in Bournemouth on the south coast of England, but party leader David Cameron has resisted being rushed into announcing his policies during the four-day event that closes on Wednesday.
Cameron has come under sharp criticism since becoming party leader in December, as the party has not laid out any serious policies. In his first conference as party leader, he will use the conference as a platform to lay the foundations for the party to take on the responsibilities of government and look at strategies to defeat Tony Blair's Labor Party and win the next general election, expected in 2009.
In his opening speech on Sunday, Cameron announced a "solid foundation" of principles and set out the "unifying idea" he wants to see running through Conservative policies before detailing policies.
Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, he said: "What we need is a revolution in social responsibility, giving power to parents, to teachers, to the people working in hospitals and also in local government as well. You know, we are far too centralized as a country. So let's see some civil responsibility; let's drive down responsibility to local authorities. So that's a unifying idea."
Cameron is expected to move away from traditional right-wing policies, indicating a break with the policies of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. He has said that Britons want different policies from those that brought Thatcher to power in 1979.
Branding himself a "liberal Conservative," he seems to be moving away from Thatcherite economics and social attitudes. He is considered a good friend of Israel, but criticized its actions in Lebanon, describing its military offensive as "disproportionate." He later stated that he recognizes the right of Israel to defend itself against attack, but the measures taken to achieve that defense should always be "proportionate."
On Tuesday, the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) hosted a lunch for senior party members and invited guests. The speakers were Ambassador to the UK Zvi Hefetz and Chief Whip Patrick McLoughlin. Cameron and Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague attended along with around 60 MPs, about 25 percent of the parliamentary faction.
On Tuesday evening, Shadow Defense Secretary Liam Fox, CFI parliamentary chairman MP James Arbuthnot and Hefetz were to address a CFI meeting open to all delegates.
"People in Israel should be content in the fact that voices in support of Israel will be heard at the conference," CFI executive director Stuart Polak said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Israel is likely to be discussed at a session on foreign affairs and international security, which could give clues to Cameron's stance on Israel. Hague and Fox were to speak.
CFI also has had a permanent exhibition stand throughout the conference. Sponsored by Yarden wines, delegates have been able to receive information on Israel while enjoying a glass of wine. During Yom Kippur, the stand was manned by non-Jewish Conservative friends of Israel.
On Sunday, US Sen. John McCain, one of the frontrunners to secure the Republican presidential nomination for 2008, addressed the conference. McCain, who compared Cameron to John F. Kennedy in an interview with The Spectator magazine, said he had met the Conservative leader for the first time this week and was "excited" by what he was trying to achieve.
Cameron has enjoyed a lead over Labor in the polls since May, but it is not yet clear if he has won over the grassroots of his party. However, polls show most Britons prefer Cameron to Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, Blair's likely successor.
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