Nick Clegg at the CST: “I want to see a prosperous and confident Israel, able to live in peace”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg spoke at the Northern Dinner of the Community Security Trust in Manchester on Thursday 3 November 2011.

Addressing a range of Jewish policy issues, Mr Clegg said:

“No Israeli should have to live in fear of terrorism. I want to see a prosperous and confident Israel, able to live in peace.”

The Liberal Democrat Leader made some particularly strong comments about how best to tackle different types of extremism, leading Martin Bright, Political Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, to write of Mr Clegg’s “strong” and “bold” stance, saying:

“Mr Clegg has always argued for a policy of engagement with radical Islam but he and others within the party have been keen to dismiss the idea that the Liberal Democrats are anti-Israel. Exactly a year ago, he gave a speech to Lib Dem Friends of Israel which emphasised his party’s support for a change in the law of universal jurisdiction. Unlike other political leaders, Nick Clegg has never courted the Jewish community. But nor has he been a false friend. At least, with Nick, you know what you are getting.”

Earlier the same day, Mr Clegg visited North Cheshire Jewish Primary School, where he confirmed continued government funding for Jewish school security, saying:“… tragically, the incidents of antisemitism and antisemitic violence have increased, particularly in Manchester, in recent months…So clearly these costs and needs are with us and will be with us for some time to come. The Government will continue to stand by schools like this to try and do our bit to provide some extra resources where that helps to cover security costs.”

Asked during the visit what he thought about Iran’s nuclear programme, Mr Clegg told the Jewish Chronicle:

“…a nuclear armed Iran would be very bad for the world…and so we are completely committed to continue to apply pressure through sanctions and other means on Iran…But we also will engage with Iran, and say to them very clearly that if they give up nuclear weapons ambitions, and if what they want is a civil nuclear programme, we’re prepared to work with them on that. That twin approach of pressure and engagement is something that we will continue…But as for other outcomes, clearly, you don’t rule anything out in a situation as grave as this.”

Mr Clegg later told the CST dinner:

“I never fail to be inspired by the Jewish community. The depth of your religious traditions, spanning thousands of years. Your rich cultural heritage, your contribution to British life. Indeed the history of Jews in Britain is, itself, a history of some of the greatest figures in British arts, education, business and politics. And when you look at the Jewish community today it is difficult not to be impressed. Whether at your pride in being part of a community that generates so much warmth, kindness and generosity. Your charitable work. Your volunteer networks – people who work tirelessly towards the goal of Tikkun Olam. And your phenomenal capacity to work in coalition: Orthodox, Reform, Liberal, Masorti…I’d be grateful for any tips.

“Tonight we are here to pay tribute to the CST. It is profoundly disturbing that some people still wish to harm the Jewish community. By vandalising Jewish buildings, graffiti-ing Jewish gravestones, even attacking Jewish people. The CST stands up to those people – you are the protective cloak over communal Jewish life. Whatever the weather, whatever the time, CST volunteers will be at every event, outside every building. Providing reassurance, deterrence. Providing that vital link with the local police – and Manchester is an excellent example of that partnership.

“Not everyone outside the community understands that it is normal for small children to be perfectly comfortable with men on walkie talkies guarding their Hebrew classes, or synagogues having CCTV, or major events involving airport style security. And, if I’m honest, I would like to put the CST out of business. We all crave a time when none of this is needed. But, for now, you provide a hugely important service. Not just for the Jewish community – I know you do a lot of work to help other faith groups tackle hate crime too. And, on behalf of the Coalition Government…let me thank the whole CST team very, very much.”

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