He told guests at the Hilton Park Lane: “Now there are some who say nothing will work – and that we have to learn to live with a nuclear armed Iran. I say we don’t and we shouldn’t. But at the same time I also refuse to give in to those who say that the current policy is fatally flawed, and that we have no choice but military action. A negotiated settlement remains within Iran’s grasp. But until they change course, we have a strategy of ever tougher sanctions.
“Just today, Britain has secured a further round of new sanctions through the EU Foreign Affairs Council. And these relentless sanctions are having an impact no-one expected a year ago. They have slowed the nuclear programme.”
News of the new sanctions focusing on gas exports and banks was welcomed by Benjamin Netanyahu, though he warned that only when the “centrifuges stop spinning and when the Iranian nuclear programme is rolled back” will the world know the goal of sanctions has been achieved.
Cameron insisted that “nothing – and I mean nothing is off the table” but said he had personally told Netanyahu that “now is not the time for Israel to resort to military action. Beyond the unpredictable dangers inherent in any conflict, the other reason is this: At the very moment when the Regime faces unprecedented pressure and the people are on the streets and when Iran’s only real ally in Syria is losing his grip on power a foreign military strike is exactly the chance the Regime would look for to unite his people against a foreign enemy. We shouldn’t give them that chance. We need the courage to give these sanctions time to work.”
The Conservative leader – who said Britain “will always stand by Israel, protect Israel” – told the gathering that standing up to Iran was one of three key steps to securing the country’s future, alongside seizing the opportunities presented by the Arab Spring and “taking the hard choices needed to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians”. He said he believed “time is running out for a two-state solution – and with it Israel’s best chance to live in peace with her neighbours”.
The prime minister called on Israel to relax restrictions on Gaza, provide more support for economic development in the West Bank and halt settlement building. But he added: “I know it takes two to negotiate. So let me say this clearly to President Abbas there is no path to statehood except through talks with Israel. So if the Palestinian plan is simply posturing with the UN rather than negotiating with Israel, Britain will never support it.”
On the domestic front, the prime minister – who received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his speech – had particularly tough words for the boycott movement. “To those in Britain’s universities and trade unions who want to boycott Israel and consign it to some sort of international ghetto, I say not only will this Government never allow you to shut down 60 years worth of vibrant exchange and partnership that does so much to make our countries stronger. But I also say this: we know what you are doing – trying to delegitimise the state of Israel – and we will not have it.”
He paid tribute to those in the room – including Ambassadors Matthew Gould and Daniel Taub – who are “determined to build the strongest possible” bilateral relationship including the Nobel prize winners of the UK-Israel Life Sciences Council. And he joked: “These are proper Nobel Prize winners. Not the European Union.”
Stuart Polak, Director of CFI, said friends of Israel should be “deeply satisfied” with the Prime Minister’s words. “He maintained a strong stance on Iran, confirming that nothing is off the table. He expressed concern about Palestinian delegitimsation of Israel, their glorification of terror and their refusal to negotiate. His assertion that Britain would never support Palestinian posturing at the UN was also very welcome.” Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “We welcome the Prime Minister’s clear acknowledgement of our longstanding position that boycotts are a tactic of those who promote the assault upon Israel’s legitimacy. We wholeheartedly commend his stance that he will respond to them by further strengthening ties between Britain and Israel.”Learn more »