Richard Melson

April 2006

Lord Levy

Lord Levy

Michael Abraham Levy, Baron Levy

(born 11 July 1944) is a Labour member of the British House of Lords.

Early life

Born in Hackney, East London, to immigrant parents of modest means, Levy was educated at Hackney Downs Grammar School, making his fortune during the 1960s and 1970s as an impresario, managing singers such as Alvin Stardust and Chris Rea. He founded Magnet Records, which gave the public the popular 1970s/80s ska band Bad Manners.

Political life

A resident of Mill Hill and close friend and tennis partner of Tony Blair, Levy ran the Labour Leader's Office Fund to finance Blair's campaign before the 1997 General Election and received substantial contributions from such figures as Alex Bernstein and Robert Gavron, both of whom were ennobled by Blair after he came to power. Levy himself was made a life peer in 1997 as Baron Levy, of Mill Hill in the London Borough of Barnet.

He is a supporter of Labour Friends of Israel and has been described by The Jerusalem Post as "undoubtedly the notional leader of British Jewry". [1] Since 2002, he has acted as the Prime Minister's personal envoy to the Middle East. Sir Christopher Meyer, former British Ambassador to Washington, has said that that the Saudi and Jordanian royal families told him Levy was "not terribly welcome in their countries; and that he was received only out of friendship for Tony Blair." He was also criticised in Sir Christopher's memoirs for his pretensions and over-playing his expectations (e.g. of meetings with high-level US Administration officials)[2].

Lord Levy undertook both visits in his capacity as the Prime Minister's envoy. On 23 January 2003, Lord Levy met Yasser Abed Rabbo, Nabil Qassis, Sa'eb Erekat and Akram Haniyeh (in their respective roles as Chairman of the Ministerial Reform Committee, Ministerial Reform Committee Co-ordinator, Chief Negotiator and adviser to Yasser Arafat) in Ramallah.

Lord Levy met Richard Armitage (Deputy Secretary, State Department) and Elliott Abrams (Senior Director, National Security Council) in Washington on 19 February 2003.

He was appointed President of The Council of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust in September 2005.

Fundraising for Labour

Known as "Lord Cashpoint" to some in the media and politics, he is a leading fundraiser for the Labour Party and was central to the "Cash for Peerages" controversy of March 2006, in which it was revealed that the Labour party had raised £14 million in loans from private individuals. Unlike political donations, loans do not have to be declared. He has suggested that he will stop his fundraising activities when Blair leaves office and is now believed to advocate the state funding of political parties.

Donations

In 1997, Levy secured a £1m donation to Labour from Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone. When the government changed its policy to allow Formula One to continue being sponsored by tobacco manufacturers, the Labour Party returned the donation.

In 2000, Levy was criticised when it was revealed that he had paid only £5,000 tax during the financial year 1998–99—equivalent to that paid on a salary of £21,000. In an interview at the time, repeated on BBC2's Newsnight on 16 March 2006, Levy stated that "Over the years I have paid many millions of tax. And, if you average it, each year it comes to many hundreds of thousands of pounds. In that particular year, I was giving my time to the Labour Party and the voluntary sector, and I just lived off of capital."

Personal

Michael Levy is a pre-eminent fundraiser for charity. Simon Morris, director of Jewish Care, is quoted as saying that when it comes to fundraising, "there's no one better in the country."

Labour Friends of Israel

http://www.lfi.org.uk

Labour Friends of Israel is a UK Parliament based campaign group promoting support throughout the British Labour Party for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Israel recognised and secure within its borders and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.

Founded in 1956, it has developed into one of the largest interest groups in the Labour Party, drawing wide support from Members of Parliament and Government Ministers. It seeks to strengthen the bond between the British Labour Party and the Israeli Labor Party, organising meetings in both the UK and Israel between senior figures.

In 2005 its Chair was David Cairns MP and President was Rt Hon Gwyneth Dunwoody MP. Vice Chairs were Mike Gapes MP, Andrew Dismore MP, Louise Ellman MP and Meg Munn MP. Members of the Labour Friends of Israel Policy Council were Rt Hon Stephen Byers MP, Rt Hon Derek Foster MP, Rt Hon George Foulkes MP, Barbara Roche MP and Lord Macdonald of Tradeston. House of Lords Chair was Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale.

Labour Friends of Israel

Address:
Labour Friends of Israel
BM LFI
London
WC1N 3XX

Email: mail@lfi.org.uk

UK FOREIGN SECRETARY JACK STRAW & ISRAEL:

'UNITED KINGDOM AND ISRAEL SHARE THE SAME DEMOCRATIC VALUES' – SPEECH

JACK STRAW (02/11/05)

http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/

Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/

ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1063632562982&a=KArticle&aid=1130673808370

Event: Labour Friends of Israel

Speech Date: 02/11/05

Speaker: Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw

Edited transcript of speech given by Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw.

Your Excellency, My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen

In nearly six decades, Israel has achieved an astonishing amount. It has built a thriving democracy in a region historically dominated by autocratic regimes. And, as a leading global competitor in areas such as medicine, scientific research, and information technology, it now has one of the most advanced economies in the world. These are things for which the people of Israel and the wider Jewish community are rightly proud. Today the United Kingdom and Israel share the same democratic values and we enjoy practical collaboration in many areas.

Sadly there is something else we share with Israel. When, in July, I met Foreign Minister Shalom, I made the point that over a 30-year period we in Britain had become all too accustomed to the terrorist atrocities of the Irish Republican Army. But until the horrific attacks on 7 July, the British public had not lived with the danger of murderers prepared to take their own lives and determined to kill as many innocent people as possible. On that day we better understood the anxiety which Israelis have felt every day for years as they simply go about what is their daily business and travel on the bus or eat in a café.

So the United Kingdom, as Presidency of the European Union, strongly condemned last week's appalling attack against people shopping in a market in the town of Hadera. Let us be clear, there can be no justification whatsoever for terrorism. The terrorists offer no real solutions. Indeed, confronted by signs of progress and hope, the terrorist wills an endless cycle of violence and revenge. And in claiming to represent Islam, they insult the overwhelming majority of Muslims who abhor and detest such violence and vociferously reject this misinterpretation of their faith.

Last Wednesday, we saw the horrible reality of the sort of acts which President Ahmadinejad of Iran has recently chosen to praise. His comments were profoundly disturbing and his stated desire of wiping Israel from the map only heightens our concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions. The Prime Minster Tony Blair, together with the European Union leaders at Hampton Court condemned this threat against Israel in the strongest terms, making clear that it was inconsistent with Iran claiming to be a mature and responsible member of the international community.

And President Ahmedinjad's stance is not one which the Palestinians themselves support. The senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat made very clear that President Ahmedinejad would better help the Palestinian people by focusing on putting Palestine on the map rather than calling for Israel to be wiped off it.

The bloodshed last week threatens to put back recent progress in the region. But since Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas met at Sharm el-Sheikh in February, the level of violence between Israel and the Palestinians has fallen substantially. After five long years of unrest, destruction and mistrust, hopes for peace are now again possible.

Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and four settlements in the West Bank was particularly significant. It was a clear movement in the direction of the shared goal of a state of Palestine living alongside a state of Israel in peace and security. It offers the Palestinians the opportunity to govern themselves, to manage their own security and to prove to the world that they can lay the foundations of their own viable state.

It was a difficult step for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his government to take. The highly emotional scenes of settlers being removed from their homes were powerful evidence of the strain which disengagement put on Israeli society. The Israeli government showed huge courage and perseverance. The relatively smooth process by which this withdrawal was completed was also in part a result of effective co-ordination with the Palestinians.

The United Kingdom is proud to have played a leading role in ensuring the international community's consistent support for the policy of disengagement. This must provide the platform for the creation of two viable states respecting each other's right to a secure existence and dynamic economic development. I have visited the region over the past few months to lend our support to disengagement and to give both sides our help and encouragement. Our hope is that the withdrawal will create the much needed momentum for a return to the Roadmap. We welcome that fact that both Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas have committed themselves to the Roadmap and expressed their determination to move toward a negotiated settlement.

So there are hopeful signs of improvement in relations between Israelis and Palestinians; and of real progress towards that goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and harmony.

There are other hopeful signs too – not least from the gradual but seminal shift towards representative government and democratic elections in the Middle East. At the end of next week, I will be going to Bahrain to attend the Forum for the Future meeting – part of the G8 Broader Middle East initiative. At this event leaders from the G8 and from the region will discuss topics such as women's rights, corruption and human rights which, until a few years ago were, frankly, taboo. And more than that, it will be an event in which civil society will, for the first time in the region, participate on an equal footing with governments.

But these remarkable shifts in attitude by Arab states throw into sharper relief the baleful, harmful influence of two states who are in a mind-set which allows them to believe that the clock can be turned back to before 1967, if not before 1948. These two states are Iran and Syria.

I've already mentioned the world-wide condemnation of President Ahmedinejad's comments last week. What is striking is how many erstwhile supporters of Iran are now deeply worried about the direction in which the country is going. The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, called President Ahmedinejad's threats against Israel 'unacceptable' and added that they had 'given additional arguments' to those wanting to pass Iran's nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council.

As for Syria, this week the Security Council passed – unanimously – one of its toughest ever Chapter Seven resolutions. This resolution – 1636 – states that Syria must not interfere in Lebanese domestic affairs and that it must co-operate fully with the investigation into the killing of Rafik Hariri. This includes detaining those Syrian officials or individuals whom the United Nations Commission suspects of organising his assassination. If Syria doesn’t co-operate, the resolution makes clear that the Security Council could consider further action. Syria’'s grudging and evasive attitude has to change – otherwise it will face serious consequences.

On Monday, as well as the report by Detlev Mehlis, the Security Council had before it an equally significant report – by Terje Roed-Larsen. For many years the Syrians have accused Israel of occupying Lebanese land – the Shabaa farms area. The Syrians have used this in the past as a justification for keeping their troops in Lebanon and continue to use it as an excuse for arming Hezbollah. Terje Roed-Larsen has shown conclusively that map after map – including those produced by the Syrian and Lebanese governments – marks the Shabaa farms area as part of Syria, and not Lebanon. I would now like to see the United Nations make a clear declaration that Hezbollah cannot use the Shabaa farms area as a reason to delay disarming and that Syria and Iran cannot use it as an excuse to support terrorism
.


My friends

I know that you have just started the reading of the Torah from the very first portion of Genesis – in the beginning. We must make every effort for a new beginning with renewed efforts to support the peace process.

This year, marks two important anniversaries. First, it is 350 years since Manessah Ben Israel obtained official recognition for Jews in Britain from Oliver Cromwell. Today's Jewish community in this country should be proud of its vitality and vibrancy and be congratulated for its many achievements. Anglo-Jewry serves to provide a positive message for multicultural Britain, as a religious minority who have, over time, integrated themselves into the fabric of British life and culture, whilst still maintaining their ancient traditions and central tenets of their faith.

And in two days' time it will be ten years since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin – a statesman and Nobel Prize Winner whose legacy continues to shape Israeli politics to this day. Prime Minister Rabin embarked on a courageous journey which laid the groundwork for future negotiations between Israel and Palestine. All the friends of Israel – both here and around the world – hope that one day this vision of peace will be realised.

Jack Straw, Lord Levy, Tony Blair

April 20, 2006