What is the position of Rishi Sunak, the new British Prime Minister, on Israeli and Jewish issues?

(JTA) — The last few years have been tumultuous at 10 Downing St., the British Prime Minister’s residence in London. Last week Liz Truss, who lasted just over six weeks in the role, became the third prime minister to step down since 2019.

But the succession of Conservative Party leaders has kept some things stable: They have all had close ties to mainstream British Jewry and have professed a right-wing foreign policy that is staunchly pro-Israel and warmongering towards its enemies in the region.

Rishi Sunak, a former Treasury secretary and the UK’s first ever person of color to take on the role when he was elected by his party on Monday, continues that trend.

In fact, Sunak has shown himself willing to discuss moving the Israeli Embassy from Britain to Jerusalem – a move that has always been avoided across the British political spectrum, including by the curators.

Speaking at a Conservative Friends of Israel event in August, he said there was a “very strong case” for the move, which would involve the UK recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Israel. Although former President Donald Trump’s administration moved the US embassy to Jerusalem and inspired other countries to follow suit, much of the international foreign policy establishment opposes it. argues that this change disrupts the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and hampers the eventuality of a Palestinian state.

Sunak admitted he would face strong opposition to a move of the embassy from within and outside his own party. After Truss’ economic policies deepen an already burgeoning inflation crisis, Sunak will likely seek to tackle domestic issues first early in his term.

Sunak seems to belong to a new generation of Conservative Party leaders who have shown willingness to depart from the kingdom’s decades-long foreign ministry policy, which is widely seen as favoring keeping Israel at bay so as not to irritate the Arab world. Prince William ended what was seen as an unofficial decades-long boycott during official visits to Israel by senior British Royal House officials in 2018. The government of Theresa May, Boris Johnson’s predecessor, played a central role in facilitating the visit.

In an interview in August with the Jewish Chronicle of LondonSunak – a former hedge fund manager who together with his wife (daughter of the founder of Infosys, an Indian IT giant) amassed a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars – dismissed claims that Israel is a state of apartheid, as several human rights groups have called it in recent years.

“The apartheid allegation is not only factually incorrect, but downright offensive. Like any nation, Israel is not perfect, but it is a vibrant multi-ethnic democracy with a free press and the rule of law. It is a beacon of hope in a region of autocracies and religious extremists,” Sunak said.

Sunak’s family has direct knowledge of colonialism in Africa. He was born in Southampton, a town about 70 miles southwest of London, but his father, a doctor, was born in Kenya, and his mother, a pharmacist, was born in Tanzania. East Africa was once home to a solid minority of Indians, Pakistanis and other Southeast Asians who settled there when these countries were part of the British Empire, which also included their ancestral lands in Asia. Sunak’s parents moved to Southampton, which has a large South Asian minority, in the 1960s.

The Abraham Accords, which since 2020 have established diplomatic relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain, “proved that peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors is possible” and “demonstrated the enormous benefits that normalization brings,” Sunak tells the Chronicle. Britain, he added, “is in a strong position to leverage its historic relationships with other Gulf states to expand agreements and I would like to see British diplomats focus more on that.” .

At home, Sunak backed plans to erect a major Holocaust museum near the Parliament building in London. He also expressed concerns about anti-Semitism and expressed support for funding Jewish community security groups.

Sunak, who is Hindu, is also the first non-Christian to serve as prime minister – taking into account that Benjamin Disraeli, who served two terms as prime minister in the 19th century, converted from Judaism to Islam. Anglicanism as a child with his family. Sunak’s ancestry was widely celebrated in India.

Sunak’s election has ‘huge significance for Jews who can see someone from a minority, who practices religion, as prime minister,’ said Jonathan Sacerdoti, a British journalist who writes regularly about anti-Semitism. . Jewish insider.

“There are familiarities between the two religions that these two religious groups will recognize, and it is encouraging for the Jewish community that they understand what it is like to grow up in Britain as a Briton, but with an identity. being part of a minority. religious and ethnic group,” he said.

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