Conservative Friends of Israel
Conservative Friends of Israel, abbreviated to CFI, is a British parliamentary group affiliated to the Conservative Party, which is dedicated to strengthening business, cultural and political ties between the United Kingdom and Israel. CFI is an unincorporated association
It was founded in 1974 by Conservative MP for Bury and Radcliffe, Michael Fidler. It is currently chaired by Stuart Polak. The Parliamentary Chairman is James Arbuthnot, the Parliamentary President is Baroness Shephard of Northwold. The Vice Chairmen are John Butterfill and James Clappison, the Secretary is David Amess, the Officers are Alistair Burt, Lee Scott, and Theresa Villiers, and the Chairman of CFI Europe is Timothy Kirkhope.
In 1995 Conservative politician Robert Rhodes James called it "the largest organisation in Western Europe dedicated to the cause of the people of Israel". By 2009, according to the Channel 4 documentary Dispatches – Inside Britain's Israel Lobby, around 80% of Conservative MPs were members of the CFI. In 2013, Peter Oborne, the Daily Telegraph's chief political commentator called CFI “by far Britain’s most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group”, which “acts as if every Jew in the country is a Likud supporter. The same is true of AIPAC in the US.”
The group's 2005 strategy identified the following areas of activity: supporting Israel, promoting the British Conservative Party, fighting terrorism, combating anti-semitism, and promoting peace in the Middle East. According to their website, "over two thirds" of Conservative MPs were members of Conservative Friends of Israel in 2006. In 2007 the Political Director stated it had over 2000 members and registered supporters. In 2009, at least half of the shadow cabinet were members of the group according to a Dispatches documentary.
Their website states the opinion that it is one of the fastest growing political lobby groups in the UK. According to the Dispatches documentary, between 2006 and 2009 the CFI funded more than 30 Conservative parliamentary candidates to visit Israel.
CFI annual business lunch
David Cameron, then newly elected leader of the Conservative Party, addressed the CFI annual business lunch on 30 January 2006, whose audience included half of the Conservative Parliamentary Party. As part of his speech, he stated "I am proud not just to be a Conservative, but a Conservative friend of Israel; and I am proud of the key role CFI plays within our Party. Israel is a democracy, a strong and proud democracy, in a region that is, we hope, making its first steps in that direction."
The Dispatches documentary claimed members of the group and their companies have donated over £10 million to the Conservative party between 2001 and 2009. The group called this figure "deeply flawed" saying that they have only donated £30,000 between 2004 and 2009 but that members of the group have undoubtedly made their own donations to the party. Dispatches described the CFI as "beyond doubt the most well-connected and probably the best funded of all Westminster lobbying groups".
Members of CFI
According to the CFI website 80% of Tory MPs are members of Conservative Friends of Israel.
In alphabetical order, members of Conservative Friends of Israel include:
- James Arbuthnot
- Graham Brady MP
- Alistair Burt MP
- David Cameron MP
- James Clappison MP
- Iain Duncan-Smith MP
- Liam Fox MP
- Mike Freer MP
- Lord Hague of Richmond
- Robert Halfon MP
- Richard Harrington MP
- Lord Kalms
- Sajid Javid MP
- Priti Patel MP
- Sir Eric Pickles MP
- Sir Malcolm Rifkind
- Theresa Villiers, MP
- Labour Friends of Israel
- Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel
- Northern Ireland Friends of Israel
- European Friends of Israel
- Friends of Israel Initiative
- Conservative Friends of Russia
- Conservative Friends of the Chinese
- Peter Oborne (12 December 2012). "The cowardice at the heart of our relationship with Israel". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- Dispatches: Inside Britain's Israel Lobby, Channel 4, Monday 16 November 2009
- Peter Oborne, Iran nuclear deal: ill-informed friends of Israel are refusing to face facts, Daily Telegraph, 27 November 2013, accessed 10 August 2015
- CFI INFORMED Magazine, Second Edition (PDF), Conservative Friends of Israel, February 2007, p. 3, archived from the original (PDF) on 29 May 2008, retrieved 29 May 2008
- Conservative Friends of Israel – About Us
- Robert Halfon (27 September 2007). "Introducing the CFI". ConservativeHome. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
- Black, Ian (16 November 2009). "Pro-Israel lobby group bankrolling Tories, film claims". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 16 November 2009.
- Conservative Friends of Israel web site
- "Companies House WebCHeck - CONSERVATIVE FRIENDS OF ISRAEL LIMITED". Companies House. Company No. 08114952. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- CFI INFORMED Weekly Briefing (PDF), Conservative Friends of Israel, 3 February 2006, archived from the original (PDF) on 25 May 2006, retrieved 25 May 2006
- Duncan Smith: Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorists, Conservatives.com, 10 December 2001
- "Howard Speech to the Conservative Friends of Israel, at the Savoy Hotel, London". Conservatives.com. 6 December 2004. Archived from the original on 12 December 2004.
- "About CFI". Conservative Friends of Israel. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
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- "Ministers lose seats in the East". East Anglia Daily Times. 7 May 2010.
- Black, Ian (16 November 2009). "Pro-Israel lobby group bankrolling Tories, film claims". The Guardian (London).
- "About Conservative Friends of Israel". cfoi.co.uk. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
- "Eric Pickles to lead MPs’ delegation to Israel". Jewish Chronicle. July 24, 2015.
- "Rifkind elected as Kensington MP". Jewish Chronicle. 7 May 2010.
- Sloan, Alaistair. "Ed Miliband will back Israel". Middle East Monitor. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
- Conservative Friends of Israel – Official site