I welcome you and your wife as distinguished and most beloved guests, as loyal friends to the people of Israel and as the leader of a nation which serves as an example and role model to the entire enlightened world.

 Address by PM Ehud Olmert at Knesset Session in honor of British PM Gordon Brown


Britain's PM Brown listens to PM Olmert speak during special session of Knesset (Photo: Reuters)

Madam Speaker,
Our Honorable and Distinguished Guest, Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Right Honorable Gordon Brown and Mrs. Sarah Brown,
The Honorable Governor of New Jersey, my friend Jon Corzine,
Distinguished Members of the Visiting Prime Minister’s Entourage,
Ministers of the Government of Israel,
Members of Knesset,
Distinguished Guests,

It is my pleasure and my privilege, Mr. Prime Minister, to extend a warm welcome on behalf of the State of Israel in the home of Israeli democracy. You are the most senior elected official of a great and admirable nation, whose cultural and moral contribution is recognized worldwide. Many countries around the world owe their form of government, their constitutional and legislative infrastructure and their institutions of democratic rule to the inspirational British legacy. Regardless of where on the planet the Union Jack was raised, it left behind its influence and impression, out of appreciation and respect for all that it represents.

The citizens of Israel do not forget that it was His Majesty’s Government which first recognized the right of the Jewish people to a national home in its historic homeland; it was the declaration by Britain’s great Foreign Secretary, Lord Balfour, in his letter of 2 November 1917 to Lord Rothschild – a letter which became the historic turning point – establishing the recognition of the Jewish people’s right to the Land of Israel.

During the First World War, the courageous Jewish underground here in Israel passed vital intelligence on to the British forces, and the volunteer Jewish Brigades participated in the campaign at Gallipoli and in liberating the Land of Israel from the Ottoman occupation as part of the British Army. Under the auspices of the British Mandate, a large, developed, creative and autonomous Jewish community was established here, the "country to come". When the Second World War broke out, tens of thousands of young Jews, residents of the Land of Israel, enlisted in the British Army to fight in the war against the Nazi oppressor, our common enemy – the enemy of humanity.

Sharp differences between our people and the British regime in Israel became apparent on the eve of the World War, during and after it, resulting from the severe limitations on Jewish immigration and the barring of our shores to the desperate refugees. This was a time during which proper standards were lost and there was an inhuman disregard for the fate of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Holocaust, who searched for a way to reach the land of their forefathers as a final resort in light of the horrors of the Holocaust and its terrible results. This was Britain’s finest hour, which withheld from those Jews their human and basic rights. The undergrounds which were established in Israel to liberate it from the encumbrance of the British Mandate were compelled to use violent force as well, in order to convince Britain to actualize the Balfour Declaration.

Eventually reason, a sense of responsibility and basic British morality won out, and the State of Israel was established. The affronts of the past were forgotten – and a close, friendly and warm relationship again flourished between our peoples and our countries.

Mr. Prime Minister,

I know that your sympathetic sentiment for and your genuine friendship with the Jewish people and the State of Israel were learned in your father’s house, who as head of the Committee for Israel Affairs in the Scottish Church made frequent visits to our country and used to share with you his experiences and the history of the Jewish people, and as you told me, used to show you and your family the slides of his photographs of the Holy Land, and the carousel did not always work, but you remember the pictures. He shared with you and your family the suffering and struggle for rebirth of the Jewish people. The heartwarming congratulations you sent me on the occasion of the State of Israel’s 60th anniversary were a bold and moving expression of this.

I believe that Britain and Israel are closer today in their points of view than ever before. Together, we advocate a liberated world, one free of terror and violence; a solution to conflict through peaceful means; human advancement which utilizes achievements in science and technology for the betterment of mankind; a cleaner environment which preserves its natural resources and an ecological balance; and a market economy based on firm principles of social justice.

In a global reality of conflict and wide-spread media coverage; in an era of change and economic concerns, the weakening of the dollar and the increase in the cost of oil; in a world so divided and full of tensions between north and south, rich and poor, freedom and oppression, democracy and dictatorship, pluralism and fundamentalism and between peace and terror – the free world faces challenges and dangers unlike any we have previously known.

The security of the threatened democratic lifestyle, is – not for the first time – based on the ideological and strategic ties and the trans-Atlantic bridge between the North American and European democracies, of which Britain is the central "bolt" which connects the two. The resolute actions of Her Majesty’s Government in the struggle against terror has already borne impressive results, and the governmental legislative initiatives debated by Parliament in Westminster indicate an understanding for the need for certain emergency measures, which are a result of the severity of the threat. You certainly cannot forget the early days of your tenure as Prime Minister, when the terrorist organizations, in a series of terrorist actions across Britain, attempted to challenge you from taking up your position.

The State of Israel greatly appreciates your determined and assertive stance, Sir, and that of the British Government, on issues of terror and the nuclearization of Iran. I know you are a partner to the recognition that the most serious threat to the stability of the Middle East and to world peace originates in the posturing of the Ayatollah regime in Tehran for regional hegemony based on a fundamental resistance to peace, broad support for terrorist organizations, a stubborn effort to achieve an atomic military capability, and open and avowed calls for the destruction of Israel.

As someone who has studied history and knows well the story of the Jewish people during the last century, I do not need to explain to you our sensitivity to threats of obliteration, behind which stand – Heaven forbid – weapons of mass destruction. As far as we are concerned, this is an intolerable situation with which we cannot come to terms. However, this threat is not solely directed at Israel, but rather towards all moderate regimes in the Arab and Islamic world, as well as far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East. This is a global threat, and it must be dealt with immediately through a unified and determined international front, because under no circumstances can the deadline be missed.

The State of Israel is asking for nothing but peace. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been lengthy and bitter, but we are not lacking a solution. As one occupied with intense negotiations with the President of the Palestinian Authority, I can testify to the fact that there are still profound disagreements on decisive issues, but they can be bridged. We are all agreed on the need to develop the Palestinian economy and its civilian infrastructure as a basis for peace, and we greatly appreciate your position and your tremendous contribution to this end, both when you served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and we cooperated on these issues, and now as Prime Minister. Indeed, a firm stance vis-a-vis Hamas, and an uncompromising demand for the fulfillment of the Quartet criteria, as your Government has demonstrated, is essential to the success of the struggle against terror and to paving the path to peace.

Mr. Prime Minister,

Your visit is an exceptional opportunity for another comprehensive and direct discussion between us on the array of excellent ties between our countries, and between the State of Israel and the European Union, and on the opportunity to expand and increase these ties in all fields – first and foremost on both comprehensive and bilateral economic matters. Our long acquaintance and many meetings in the past have granted me the ability to be deeply impressed and learn from your rare wisdom and broad knowledge regarding global economic processes.

The State of Israel, and I personally, respectfully welcome you and your wife as distinguished and most beloved guests, as loyal friends to the people of Israel and as the leader of a nation which serves as an example and role model to the entire enlightened world. You are welcome here in Israel, my friend Gordon Brown, and I also welcome the members of your delegation.