The British business and innovation secretary declared on Monday that the U.K. and Israel had entered a “golden era” for trade.
“The past few years have been a golden era for Anglo-Israeli business,” said British Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Sajid Javid, during the annual British Israel Business Awards event.
“Over the past 67 years, Israel has made business bloom in the barren desert,” said Javid. “What really excites me are the possibilities for the years that lie ahead.”
The MP, self-described as a “proud British-born Muslim,” and keynote speaker at Monday’s event said he held Israel in high regard, and expected bilateral trade and services– currently valued at about $6.9 billion, according to Javid — to continue to grow.
Javid told the audience of about 250 people that he has traveled to Israel extensively, “both for business and with family.”
“Over the years I’ve taken a great interest in [Israel’s] affairs. Because the values that have made Israel such a success are values that matter a great deal to me. I share Israel’s love for freedom and democracy. I admire its tenacious determination when the odds are stacked against it,” he said.
“And, like millions of Israelis, I have a mother who’s still waiting for me to get a proper job!” he quipped.
Javid said the British National Union of Student’s decision to adopt boycott measures against Israel, while rejecting a motion to do the same against the Islamic State, “speaks volumes.”
He said he “had no time for a boycott campaign. Because for me, freedom is an absolute concept.”
“I talk of the freedom to trade, the freedom to go about your business in peace. Today I talk of the idea that underpins my entire political philosophy, that of free enterprise. It simply doesn’t make sense to say ‘I believe in the free market, but…’” he said.
Hugo Bieber, Chief Executive of UK Israel Business said the minister’s attendance at the event “reinforces the importance our new government attaches to the business relationship between the UK and Israel. ”
A member of the British Conservative Party, Javid once told a meeting of the Conservative Friends of Israel that if he had to choose a country to live in in the Middle East, he would pick Israel as his “home.”