The Jewish community this week welcomed the promotion of key players in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new cabinet, crediting their past support for Israel and issues of Jewish interest.
Dominic Raab, whose Czech Jewish father came to the UK on the Kindertransport, was made foreign secretary by Johnson, while Grant Shapps, a former national president of Jewish youth group BBYO, was made transport secretary.
Priti Patel, who left Theresa May’s government after holding a series of undisclosed meeting with Israeli ministers while on holiday, became home secretary, replacing Sajid Javid, who earlier this year proscribed Hezbollah in its entirety. He became chancellor.
All have strong records on Israel, none more so than Patel, who froze UK aid to the Palestinian Authority just weeks after becoming secretary of state for international development, after reports that the money was being used to pay convicted terrorists and their families.
Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies, said: “We are very pleased to see many firm friends of the community taking their places on the front bench. We had a good relationship with Theresa May’s team, and look forward to continuing to advance the interests of the community with our many longstanding friends in Boris Johnson’s new government.”
Brexiteer Raab’s ascendancy to the role of foreign secretary marks the latest step in a short but stellar political career, following his election as an MP in 2010.
A lawyer by training, Raab is no stranger to the Middle East conflict, having spent a summer in the West Bank in 1998 working with one of the principal Palestinian negotiators on World Bank projects. He later spent four years working on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
His predecessor Jeremy Hunt maintained the UK’s longstanding line that East Jerusalem is “occupied territory” and criticised Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
However Johnson is famously friendly with Trump and keen to develop UK-US relations, so Raab may soon be asked to consider a similar move for the British Embassy.
Meanwhile the transport ministry marks a return to front-bench politics for Shapps. A former minister and Tory Party chair, Shapps resigned in 2015 after the father of a young Tory activist who committed suicide accused him and others of involvement and “lying” about the bullying that led to his son’s death.
Days before Shapps resigned, he had been due to appear before a London audience at a pre-election Question & Answer session organised by Jewish News, but the scandal meant he chose to pull out at the last minute.
In his place came his predecessor at the transport ministry, Chris Grayling, who defended Shapps against the audience’s charge of “negative campaigning” and who said Prince William’s Royal Visit to Israel should “celebrate a final peace agreement with the Palestinians”.
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