President Shimon Peres evoked the anger of Jewish parliament members and leaders in Britain when he said in an interview last week that England is "deeply pro-Arab and anti-Israel", adding that "they always worked against us".
Still there were some groups that backed the Israeli president and noted that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK had risen dramatically in recent years.
In an interview to a Jewish website, Peres said, "There is in England a saying that an anti-Semite is someone who hates the Jews more than is necessary." His remarks came days after British Prime Minister David Cameron called Gaza a "prison camp".
Peres said England's attitude towards Jews is Israel's "next big problem".
"There are several million Muslim voters, and for many members of parliament, that's the difference between getting elected and not getting elected," he said.
"And in England there has always been something deeply pro-Arab, of course, not among all Englishmen, and anti-Israeli, in the establishment," he added, noting that in contrast, ties with Germany, France and Italy are "pretty good".
Peres' comments were made in an interview with historian Professor Benny Morris, and were published on the Jewish website "Tablet".
'Britain among best countries to live in'
Following Peres' comments, Conservative MP James Clappison, who is also the vice-chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, said: "Mr Peres has got this wrong. There are pro- and anti-Israel views in all European countries. Things are certainly no worse, as far as Israel is concerned, in this country than other European countries."
Clappison told the British Telegraph that he understands the "frustration" that people in Israel feel with "certain elements of the British broadcast media" which present an unbalanced view of Israel.
While Clappison said he understands Peres' concerns, he added he does not "recognize what he is saying about England."
Dr. Jonathan Romain, a writer, broadcaster and minister of Maidenhead synagogue, did not agree with the president's statements, and said, "I am surprised at Peres. It is a sweeping statement that is far too one-sided.
"Britain has supported both Israel and Arab causes at different periods over the last 50 years. There are elements of anti-Semitism but it is not endemic to British society. The tolerance and pluralism here make Britain one of the best countries in the world in which to live."
Peres, who is slated to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on Sunday and ask him to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to agree to direct peace talks with Israel, got the support of Jacob Vince, the director of Christian Friends of Israel.
According to Vince, the Cameron government is trying to appease the Arabs. "Peres' comments have serious connotations and I am sure would not be said lightly," Vince said.
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