Mr President Shimon Peres, Professor Zajfman, Chief Rabbi Lau, your excellencies, colleagues, Consul-General Vincent Fean, friends.
It is a great honour to have you with us again at our celebration of the Birthday of Her Majesty the Queen.
Each year my Hebrew gets a little better, my family gets a little bigger, the Ambassador gets a little fatter, and relations between Israel and Britain grow stronger.
This year we have chosen to celebrate at the Weizmann Institute, as a symbol of the great partnership that our countries have developed in science.
For me, cooperation between Britain and Israel in science is a model for how our relationship should be. We both understand that mankind’s future rests on the nobility of great science. And both our countries are scientific superpowers. We both have disproportionate numbers of world-class universities, laboratories and scientists. We both win disproportionate numbers of Nobel prizes. We can do more together than we can apart. And by working together in science, we can benefit all of humanity.
This is why the first thing British Foreign Secretary William Hague did when he came to Israel ten days ago was to sign an agreement with Israel on collaboration in science.
This is why one of my goals as Ambassador has been to promote scientific collaboration, why we launched the BIRAX Regenerative Medicine Initiative, which now funds seven major joint research programmes, bringing British and Israeli scientists together to find regenerative therapies for diseases like diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.
It is appropriate that we are celebrating here. The Weizmann Institute is a powerful symbol of Israel’s excellence in science.
And it is Chaim Weizmann, in whose house we stand, who is the personal embodiment of that symbol. A man, whose contribution as a scientist at Manchester University helped Britain to win the War, and who went on to become Israel’s first President.
A man whose integrity and determination helped encourage the British Government to issue the Balfour Declaration. And above all, a man whose values are the bedrock of our friendship. I cannot think of a more appropriate place in which to celebrate that friendship.
And that friendship is not limited to science. In the past year we have made great strides in building a partnership in tech; we have continued to grow the level of trade between us, making Britain Israel’s biggest export market in the world outside of the US; we have built an even stronger security relationship, not least in working together against the threat from Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
In the past year we have not made the progress towards peace with the Palestinians that we all would have wanted to see. Britain will do everything it can to support the efforts of Secretary Kerry to turn this around. For, as you have said Mr President, peace between Israelis and Palestinians is “urgent, necessary, crucial and possible”.
Our countries do not always agree on everything. Our disagreement on settlements, for example, is well known. But we disagree as friends. And we will stand alongside Israel as a friend.
And as we stand in the grounds of one of Israel’s great universities, let me say this, clearly and unambiguously. The British Government opposes boycotts of Israel. They do nothing to build understanding. They put up walls, when we should be tearing them down.
Before I propose my toast, I would like to say five thank yous.
To Professor Zajfman, the President of Weizmann, and his team, who have so kindly allowed us to hold the party here.
To all our sponsors, who have made this evening possible, particularly Rolls Royce and Coutts.
To all my wonderful team, at the Embassy and at the Council, not only for this evening, but for working all year with such imagination, commitment and professionalism.
To my wife Celia, who has been my constant companion, supporter, adviser, and friend, and who has given me a month ago the most precious gift imaginable, in our baby Emily, our second sabra.
And to you Mr President, for honouring us by being here today, for being an inspiration to all Israel, for remaining true to your values and holding fast to your dreams. In a few weeks, the world will be coming to Jerusalem to celebrate your 90th birthday with you. I am profoundly grateful that today you have come to celebrate the birthday of Her Majesty The Queen with us.
And so it gives me great pleasure to propose the toast. To Shimon Peres, President of Israel.