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As always, the visit of an Israeli prime minister to these shores symbolises the history of friendship, common interests and shared values between Great Britain and the state of Israel.
Last summer, I was honoured to accompany Gordon Brown on his historic visit to Israel. It is now my honour to welcome the head of Israel’s government to Britain.
Netanyahu will highlight Israel’s current priorities. High on the list of challenges facing every western democracy is the continuing advancement of Iran’s nuclear programme. Iran continues to flout its international obligations, but experts fear that it could produce enough weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon within six months or less. This is a grave threat to the strategic environment throughout the Middle East and beyond.
The Iranian regime demonstrated its true colours as it ruthlessly crushed popular dissent following dubious elections. The Iranian people, quite rightly, do not trust their own government and it is inconceivable that such a regime could be trusted with nuclear weapons. Britain has so far led the international efforts to address the Iranian threat. Netanyahu will seek to ensure that Britain continues to strengthen the global response to a global problem.
The prime minister will also draw attention to the progress being made in the West Bank as a result of Israeli concessions. During Netanyahu’s time in office, Israel has accelerated efforts to boost the Palestinian economy. Since July 2007, the number of permanent check-points in the West Bank has been reduced from 41 to 14. In contrast to global economic trends, the West Bank economy grew by five to seven percent in 2008. Despite the inherent risks to Israel’s security, Israel has implemented further measures to ease movement and trade amongst the Palestinians, which are predicted to double the existing rate of economic growth.
These measures receive precious little coverage in the media but will be crucial in facilitating the conditions necessary to achieve stability, progress and peace.
Yet Netanyahu will also honestly, openly and eloquently articulate those aspects of Israel’s security, character and identity which are non-negotiable. Israel will remain, as it has always been, the sovereign state of the Jewish people and will continue to maintain sovereignty over Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish People for more than 3,000 years. And Israel will maintain its right, ability and obligations to defend its citizens from the terror and extremism that threaten our democratic values, our safety and our security.
Given the extent of our challenges, the unity and solidarity between the State of Israel and the British Jewish community is as important now as ever before. The prime minister will appeal, as I do, to the commitment, courage and support of Anglo-Jewry as together we strive to build a stable, prosperous and peaceful future for Israel, the Jewish people and the Middle East.
• Ron Prosor is the Israeli Ambassador to the UKIranian Issue High on Bibi's Agenda by Ron Prosor