Two key ministers who have worked closely with Anglo-Jewry since the last election have left the cabinet in David Cameron’s wide-ranging reshuffle.
William Hague quit as foreign secretary after four years at the helm of the UK’s international policy while Michael Gove was replaced as education secretary by Nicky Morgan.
Gove was seen as one of the biggest friends of the community and Israel in the Government but has attracted widespread criticism from within the teaching profession for his reforms.
The General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers reacted to the news by attacking “his pursuit of the unnecessary and often unwanted free schools and academies programme, the failure to address the school place crisis and endless ill-thought out reforms to examinations and the curriculum”.
But figures within the community were quick to praise his contribution, particularly over free schools.
Board of Deputies member Adam Dawson, who helped to set up Etz Chaim Primary in Mill Hill, said: “”Michael Gove is a great supporter of Faith Schools and thanks to his innovative Free School programme, many thousands of children across the country are benefitting from the outstanding provision they have brought to the education world.”
During Hague’s time at the foreign office, the UK speedily changed the law of universal jurisdiction following efforts by pro-Palestinian supporters to have Israeli officials arrested.
And while settlements provided a frequent source of tension between London and Jerusalem, bilateral trade has rocketed and Hague last year described bilateral relations as “stronger, warmer and more full of promise than ever”.
Many of Israel’s friends refused to forget his labelling, while in Opposition, of Israel’s actions during the Second Lebanon War as “disproportionate”.
But just hours before the shock announcement of his departure, in his final public act in the job, the former Tory leader declined to repeat the accusation while taking questions from MPs on the current Middle East crisis.
Commenting on the news that the Rt Hon William Hague MP is to step down as Foreign Secretary and will be replaced by the Rt Hon Phillip Hammond MP, Stuart Polak, Director of CFI said:
“I have known and worked with William Hague for the last twenty years. It’s been my pleasure to have been able to travel to Israel with him on six separate occasions. While we didn’t always agree on everything, I can honestly say that he truly understands what Israel is about and the complexities of the Middle East region.
During his time as Secretary of State for Defence, Phillip Hammond presided over a period when the UK – Israel defence relationship has never been better. I now congratulate him on his appointment as Foreign Secretary and very much look forward to working with him over the next 12 months and beyond.”
Former sports minister Hugh Robertson, who has served as Middle East minister for less than a year, also leaves his post at the foreign office.