British Jewry cautious as Boris Johnson appointed UK PM

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post from London, Charles Braunstein welcomed Johnson’s election as a positive step forward for the UK.

July 23, 2019 20:41
4 minute read.

President Reuven Rivlin and London Mayor Boris Johnson with Jewish and Arab children.. (photo credit: PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON OFFICE)

British Jewry is cautiously optimistic that the election on Tuesday of former London mayor Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and the UK’s prime minister will prove good for both the Jewish community and Britain-Israel ties.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post from London, Charles Braunstein welcomed Johnson’s election as a positive step forward for the UK.

“Boris is the best-placed politician to break the current Brexit impasse with the EU,” he said. “This is key for the UK to move on, and will also lessen the chance of [Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister. Boris also has a plan to re-energize the UK economy based on the following principle: A strong economy is the essential platform in providing strong public services.”
Braunstein added that Johnson is a “great friend of Israel,” and combining this “with his ability to defeat Jeremy Corbyn, British Jews should take a lot of positives out of this victory.”

He said that Johnson’s priority will be a successful delivery of Brexit, which the new prime minister has pledged will go ahead on October 31, with or without a deal with the EU.

Tova, also from London who didn’t want her last name used, had a mixed reaction to Johnson’s appointment, saying that he is adamant for Brexit to happen “and therefore he will get Brexit done no matter what, which is a bit scary because it might cost the economy. He was a decent London mayor, so I am not too worried.”
However, she said, “he makes odd comments and can be seen to be racist, but he isn’t as bad as [US President Donald] Trump has been recently,” and “at least he isn’t antisemitic.”

She said she preferred anyone as prime minister instead of Corbyn, adding that the Conservative Party is the most pro-Jewish and pro-Israel party in the UK.

Nadav Lawrence, originally from Liverpool, said that “for all the character and bravado he puts on, and the noise those on the Left make about him, politically he is very much in the Center-Right and Liberal camp.

This, coupled with his support for Brexit, may mean he is able to unite the Conservative Party more than [outgoing Prime Minister] Theresa May did, and therefore we may find he does move the country forward.”
With regards to the Jewish community and Israel, Lawrence said, “he is positive for both, as far as I am aware.”

For Jonny Daniels, Johnson’s election is “really good news for the UK Jewish community. He’s a strong leader who like May is incredibly and unapologetically pro-Jewish and pro-Israel, and in light of what the opposition holds, the Jewish community should be very happy.”

Although Daniels now splits his time between Tel Aviv and Warsaw, he added proudly that “I’m a British citizen, and will go back for the next election to vote for him.”

In contrast, Adam Perry told the Post that this news is “dreadful” for the UK.

“He is a belligerent egomaniac whose few successes have been on the coattails of others,” Perry explained. “He is leading us to a no-deal Brexit, which will have disastrous social, economic and ethical implications.”
Perry hoped that this would lead to an “opportunity for the middle ground, inclusive politics lead by the Liberal Democrats.”

On the issue of the Jewish community and Israel, Perry said Johnson would be “no better [or] no worse.” However, he expressed concern that with Johnson being “so unpopular in the public domain, he may drive people, who would not ordinarily vote Corbyn, to do so.”

UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis released a statement on Facebook saying that he is “delighted to congratulate Boris Johnson,” whom he called “a long-standing friend and champion of the Jewish community, on becoming the next leader of the Conservative Party and our next prime minister. As he accepts upon himself the mantle of responsibility to lead our nation, may he be blessed with the wisdom to successfully navigate the political uncertainties we face and bring healing and prosperity to our great country.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews President Marie van der Zyl said in a statement that it wished Johnson “every success as prime minister at this critical time for our country. We have had a long and positive relationship with Mr. Johnson as both mayor of London and foreign secretary, and we look forward to this continuing as he enters Downing Street.”

Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog sent his “Best wishes to @BorisJohnson, a true friend of Israel,” he tweeted. “I trust you will continue working to make the Jewish community feel safe in the UK in these challenging times. Look[ing] forward to your ongoing commitment to fostering ties between UK & Israel.”

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