Jewish leaders have welcomed the election of Jo Swinson as the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, after she beat Sir Ed Davey in the battle to take over from Sir Vince Cable.
Swinson was a business minister in David Cameron’s coalition government and Board of Deputies’ president Marie van der Zyl said she wished Swinson every success in her new role.
“We have enjoyed good relations with past [Lib Dem] leaders who have worked with us to ensure the interests of our community are protected, such as by adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism and ensuring those who propagate antisemitic tropes are dealt with firmly,” she said.
“We are sure this will continue under Ms Swinson’s leadership.”
In recent years the Lib Dems have dumped Baroness Jenny Tonge and most recently former MP David Ward for repeated offensive comments. Ward, who was MP for Bradford East from 2010-15, once likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to Nazi actions against Jews in an entry he made in a Holocaust remembrance book.
Swinson won almost 50,000 votes compared to Davey’s 28,000. In her victory speech she launched a withering assessment of Conservative MP Boris Johnson, the likely winner of this week’s other party leadership contest, saying he was “unfit to be prime minister”.
Gavin Stollar, honourary chair of Lib Dem Friends of Israel (LDfI), said: “I’ve known Jo for nearly 20 years. She’s a considered and passionate political figure. Her ascent to the leadership is good news for the Jewish community, good news for Israel and good news for our country. She’s someone I’m lucky to consider a friend.”
He said she had “an unblemished record on all issues of interest to the community” and on Israel she was “broadly aligned with the mainstream Jewish community, so on settlements she thinks – like me – that the continual proliferation of settlements is an impediment to peace”.
He added: “Also like me, she is no fan of Benjamin Netanyahu. If she were an Israeli citizen I imagine she would vote for the centrist Blue and White party [of Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid].”
Jewish Lib Dem peer Lord Monroe Palmer, honourary president of LDfI, said Swinson was “young and exciting with a good knowledge of foreign affairs and well aware of the concerns of the UK’s Jewish community”.
He said: “She is very, very supportive of Israel, but recognises that the time has come to recognise the State of Palestine. She is also very wary of going down the antisemitism path like the Labour Party, and has said she does not see the Lib Dems in coalition with a Corbyn-led Labour Party.”
He added: “I trust her instincts, and I don’t think she believes that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement helps either Israel or Palestine.”
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