UK’s Sunak congratulates Netanyahu on election win, looks forward to cooperation

British PM, himself only recently installed, says two countries have a ‘huge amount’ to work on together in trade, security and technology

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrives in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to attend the COP27 Climate Summit, November 6, 2022. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrives in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to attend the COP27 Climate Summit, November 6, 2022. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP)

Britain on Monday congratulated Benjamin Netanyahu on his presumptive return to power in Israel, with a message that looked forward to future cooperation on a range of issues.

“On behalf of the UK, I would like to congratulate @netanyahu on his victory in the Israeli elections,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted while on a visit to Egypt for the COP27 climate summit.

“Across areas like trade, security and technology there is a huge amount our countries do together and I look forward to working with the returning Prime Minister,” he wrote.

Sunak, who took over as prime minister last month amid a political crisis at home, was set to meet with President Isaac Herzog who is also attending the climate conference in Egpyt. Prime Minister Yair Lapid pulled out of the conference after losing last week’s election to Netanyahu.

Netanyahu, backed by ultra-Orthodox and far-right allies, secured a clear win in last Tuesday’s vote, putting the veteran leader on course for a comeback.

Though Sunak made no mention of the extremist elements in Netanyahu’s bloc, last Thursday a spokeswoman for the UK leader urged all parties in Israel to “refrain from inflammatory language and demonstrate tolerance and respect for minority groups.”

The spokeswoman also confirmed that Britain had “no plans” to move its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, after Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss announced a review during her short-lived tenure.

On Sunday, France’s President Emmanuel Macron phoned Netanyahu to congratulate him on his election victory and invited him to visit France.

According to Hebrew-language media, the two leaders also discussed regional issues, primarily Iran.

Sunday’s phone call between Netanyahu and Macron highlighted the absence of a congratulatory call from US President Joe Biden and the possible reasons behind it.

Some analysts have raised concern, according to a Channel 12 report, citing US officials saying that the Biden administration will have difficulties working with a government that includes far-right Religious Zionism’s Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich in senior positions.

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, however, explained that Biden not calling yet was due to the midterm election campaign and his busy schedule.

An unsourced report by Channel 12 on Sunday said that a phone call between Netanyahu and Biden was expected to take place the following day.

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