Israel congratulates new British PM Johnson, thanks May for friendship

Politicians welcome new UK leader, describing him as a ‘friend’; Trump, who endorsed the former top diplomat and Brexit supporter, tweets that ‘he’ll do great’

Mayor of London Boris Johnson rides an electric scooter during his visit to Tel Aviv, Israel, November 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
Mayor of London Boris Johnson rides an electric scooter during his visit to Tel Aviv, Israel, November 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Israel Katz congratulated Boris Johnson on being named Britain’s next prime minister on Tuesday.

Netanyahu, on Twitter, offered “heartfelt congratulations from Jerusalem.”

“Looking forward to working closely together, both in facing our common challenges and seizing the opportunities ahead,” added the prime minister.

“Mazal Tov to Boris Johnson on becoming UK Prime Minister,” Katz tweeted. “I look forward to working with Prime Minister Johnson and his team to build on the existing strong relationship between the UK and Israel.”

The former London mayor easily beat his rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in a vote of members of the governing Conservative party. He is expected to be confirmed as prime minister on Wednesday when his predecessor Theresa May formally tenders her resignation to Queen Elizabeth II.

The foreign minister also thanked May, who will leave office on Wednesday, for “the amazing and tireless work that she did to strengthen ties between our two countries. Bilateral trade is up, tourism is up and security cooperation is saving lives. Thank you to a true friend.”

Israeli political leaders from across the political spectrum were quick to congratulate Johnson, describing him a “friend,” both personally and to the country.

Johnson visited Israel in March 2017 when he was serving as Britain’s foreign secretary.

As foreign secretary and mayor of London, Johnson’s record on Israel has featured both statements of kinship and harsh criticism. In 2014, he called Israel’s attack on Hamas in Gaza “disproportionate,” and “ugly and tragic,” adding: “it will not do Israel any good in the long run.” In 2019, he also said that “it’s totally unacceptable that innocent Israeli civilians should face the threat of rocket fire and bombardment from Gaza.”

Earlier this month, he said in an interview with the London-based Jewish News that he is a “passionate Zionist” who “loves the great country” of Israel.

“The UK and Israel share a longstanding tradition of cooperation, common interests, and shared values,” Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz tweeted.

His No. 2, Yair Lapid, posted a photo of himself with Johnson and wrote: “Good luck to my good friend Boris Johnson. I’m sure that as Prime Minister you will continue to strengthen the relationship between our two countries.”

Senior Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar offered his congratulations to the new British prime minister, saying he was “sure the cooperation and partnership between our countries will continue to grow under your leadership.”

Isaac Herzog, head of the Jewish Agency for Israel, tweeted: “Best wishes to Boris Johnson, a true friend of Israel. I trust you will continue working to make the Jewish community feel safe in the UK in these challenging times. Look forward to your ongoing commitment to fostering ties between UK & Israel.”

Earlier, US President Donald Trump said Boris Johnson will be “great” as Britain’s next prime minister. Trump tweeted: “Congratulations to Boris Johnson on becoming the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He will be great!”

The US president had endorsed Johnson to succeed May, whom he had extensively criticized for failing to achieve a Brexit deal, and claimed that Johnson could do a better job.

JTA contributed to this report.

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