Robert Halfon, Political Director of Conservative Friends of Israel, explains its role.
With over 2,000 members and registered supporters alongside 80
percent of the Conservative MPs, Conservative Friends of Israel has
become the largest affiliated group in the Party.
Our role is threefold:
to make the case for Israel inside the Conservative party, CFI works
with Parliamentarians on debates and questions on the Middle East and
related areas, highlights key issues – such as the continued
imprisonment of the Israeli hostages by Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in
Lebanon. CFI has an active team of Parliamentary Officers including
Chairman, James Arbuthnot, Vice Chairmen David Amess, Alistair Burt,
Sir John Butterfill, James Clappison, Lee Scott and Theresa Villiers.
Our activities are wide-ranging. For example – since the Israeli
withdrawal from Gaza, nearby Israeli towns have been bombarded daily by
missiles sent by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Just before the summer we
introduced some inhabitants of these towns to a number of Conservative
MPs. In the Commons, they met with Parliamentarians as diverse as
William Hague, IDS, Michael Howard, Mike Penning, David Gauke and
others, and explained to them, just what it was like to live under the
missile attacks. The residents urged Conservatives to highlight their
case to the British Government, so that pressure could be brought to
bear on Hamas et al to stop firing missiles from Gaza. CFI’s role is
thus to highlight what is really going on and ensure that Israel gets
its viewpoint across. This is all the more important given that Israel
is not always handled in an impartial way by the media.
CFI helps to advise Conservatives on some of the primary concerns in the Middle East. A team of researchers provide up to the minute papers and briefings on Iran, the terrorist activities of Hamas and Hezbollah, Islamist extremism and what Israel is trying to do to bring about peaceful co–existence. We work with Conservative Think tanks and bring over speakers from the US and Israel who are either politicians or experts in their field. CFI builds alliances and coalitions with like-minded pressure groups and websites across the UK.
CFI holds regular events to which all members are invited including a number of seminars, briefings and some seriously good parties. CFI recently held a joint event with Conservative Future with guest speaker Michael Gove, in which over 150 CF members drank the night away at Albannach Bar in Trafalgar Sq.
Second, CFI organises visits to Israel with Conservative Parliamentarians, Councillors, and Special Advisers. David Cameron, Liam Fox , William Hague, are just a few of the MPs who have come on CFI trips, alongside a significant number of the new intake of MPs including David Burrowes, Douglas Carswell, Stephen Crabb, Nadine Dorries, Brooks Newmark and Jeremy Wright.
The visits to Israel are intensive and involve a few days of high level meetings and briefings. During the trips, CFI ensures that there is a chance to hear both sides of the debate and meetings are held with senior Palestinians. There are also meetings with top Israeli politicians, security briefings and visits to historic and cultural sites.
Finally, CFI plays an important role in supporting the Conservative Party. CFI activists campaign in target seats for parliamentary Candidates and look to assisting them in other ways. We provide interns for MPs and PPCs so as to help their campaigning efforts in the constituencies. CFI is also active in by elections and local elections.
During Conference, CFI is incredibly active. Come and visit our stand at Horsehoe Arcade, Stand Number 27 in the Winter Gardens for a delicious – and complimentary – glass of Israeli wine. Any one who signs up as a new member, gets a free copy of Michael Gove’s book about extreme Islamism ‘Celsius 7/7, a weekly briefing note via email and exclusive invites to our events.
CFI is also holding a number of meetings at the conference. Last year over 500 people came and heard Liam Fox, David Cameron and Francis Maude. This year come to CFIs open delegate reception on Tuesday 2 October at 1745 in the Baronial Hall, Winter Gardens. William Hague and James Arbuthnot will be speaking on recent events in the Middle East. It promises to be a stimulating and exciting fringe meeting. Substantial refreshments will be served.
P.S. If you would like to come – and need further information – to the CFI Hague Fringe Meeting on Tuesday 2 October at 1745, please email Stephanie Leven at the CFI offices for further details at Stephanie@cfoi.co,uk or log on to our website.