The former Conservative Party co-chair James Cleverly has been appointed as the new minister with responsibility for the Middle East, after his predecessor lost his job after only nine months.
A minister without portfolio until being given the Middle East and North Africa brief at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Friday, Cleverly was congratulated on his appointment by Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev.
In 2015, four months after being elected as an MP, Cleverly visited Israel as part of a Conservative Friends of Israel (CFoI) delegation. It was here that he first met Regev, who was serving as spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the time.
The delegation visited visit to Sderot “to see the remains of Hamas rockets,” a moshav to see “the entrance to a Hamas cross-border terror tunnel,” and a kibbutz “where Hamas terrorists attempted to launch a terror attack”.
Speaking at the end of the trip, for a promotional CFoI video, he said: “It’s been a real eye opener. Israel is an amazing country, no doubt about that. It’s a liberal open democracy in a region where that is a real rarity.
“It is at the heart of a very complicated region and the big lesson I’ve taken home is that all of us, especially those involved in public policy, have a real duty to understand the dynamic here, understand what’s going on.”
He added: “This is going to be a key area over the next couple of decades… Through this visit I feel I’ve got fewer opinions, a few more facts, but still lots of questions. I definitely recommend you come and visit.”
Cleverly takes over from Dr Andrew Murrison, who was given the brief in May last year. Before him the post was occupied by veteran Middle East expert Alistair Burt, who has now retired from politics.