Theresa May Will Be a Formidable PM and a True Friend of Israel
Theresa May has been a firm, consistent friend of the UK Jewish community, committed to their security as Home Secretary, and unafraid to stand up for Israel’s right to defend itself.
After weeks of high political drama triggered by the UK’s historic vote to leave the EU, the Conservative Party has pulled together and Theresa May has emerged as the UK’s next Prime Minister.
Make no mistake, Theresa May will be inheriting an extraordinarily big inbox. The challenges facing the UK following the Brexit vote are significant, but in Theresa May the UK has a leader that is absolutely up to the challenge of delivering on the opportunities now before us.
As the UK’s longest serving Home Secretary in over 50 years, Theresa May has a wealth of political experience in one of the most difficult jobs in British politics. She unquestionably has the skills and know-how to hit the ground running.
What does this mean for Israel and the UK’s Jewish community? The new Prime Minister is certainly well versed on the threats facing the Jewish community in both the UK and around the world. Indeed, Theresa has been a firm and consistent friend of the Jewish community and Israel, and I believe she will continue to stand up for Jews and the Jewish state as Prime Minister.
Theresa May already has a strong relationship with the UK’s Jewish community, having addressed a number of major communal events. She played a prominent role in reassuring the UK’s Jewish community in the immediate aftermath of the horrific Charlie Hebdo and HyperCacher attacks of January 2015.
She asserted that “without its Jews, Britain would not be Britain” and attended a high-profile rally to jointly declare with the community - “Je suis Juif – I am Jewish”.
True to her word, May announced earlier this year that the Government had committed £13.4 million for security measures in the Jewish community – an increase of £2 million from the previous year following a rise in reported anti-Semitic incidents. She stated bluntly:
“No one wants the school where they send their child to need security guards, or have their place of worship be fitted with security alarms and blast-resistant glass. But until that changes, the government is clear — we will stand by the Jewish community”.
Theresa first visited Israel as Home Secretary in June 2014 and she has spoken publicly about how moved she was by the tragic discovery of the three Israeli teenagers murdered by Hamas at that time.
Citing that “there is no reason, belief, or cause that can justify the abduction and killing of innocent civilians”, Theresa stressed that “Britain stands with Israel as its people mourn the loss of their boys”.
She added that it was “a sad reminder that the Arab/Israeli conflict is not just an abstract debate argued over the pages of Western newspapers and television screens”. These were heartfelt words from a politician renowned for her honesty.
Her visit to Israel also played a key role in shaping the UK’s Modern Slavery Act of which she has expressed great pride. It was the first law of its kind in Europe, and Theresa was said to have learnt a great deal from the experiences of Israel, the first country in the world to pass anti-trafficking legislation.
At an event hosted by Conservative Friends of Israel in September 2014, after Operation Protective Edge, May aligned the UK with Israel:
“No democratic government could, in the face of such danger, do anything but maintain a strong defence and security capability and be prepared to deploy it if necessary. That is why I – and the whole British Government – will always defend Israel’s right to defend itself”. By her own recognition, “Israel faces enemies intent on its very destruction”.
David Cameron will be rightly remembered as one of Israel’s greatest friends on the international stage. His support was genuine and steadfast even in the most difficult of times. The bilateral relationship is stronger than it has ever been.
His successor is every bit as capable. I’ve no doubt that Theresa will prove a formidable Prime Minister and a true friend of Israel.
Mike Freer is the UK Member of Parliament for Finchley & Golders Green. He is an officer of Conservative Friends of Israel and Parliamentary Aide to the Leader of the Commons. He resigned from a previous government position to vote against the Labour Party's request to recognize a Palestinian State. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreermp