David Cameron: Israel’s best friend?

Jerusalem delighted at re-election of PM who ‘understands’


Officials in Jerusalem have spoken of their joy and relief at the re-election of David Cameron.

“Cameron has been a fantastic supporter of Israel and the ties between the two governments, which were already close under Blair and Brown, have only improved under him,” said one.

Officials in both the British and Israeli governments also attested to the close personal relationship between Mr Cameron and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Cameron is much closer to Netanyahu’s thinking than people realise,” said one senior diplomat.

“On many issues, including the threats faced by both Israel and the West from radical Islam, they see eye-to-eye.”

By contrast, a very senior Israeli Labour source said: “Ed Miliband is not anti-Israel but he doesn’t understand the situation in the Middle East and his statements during the fighting in Gaza last summer showed that.

“Cameron is much closer to Netanyahu’s thinking than people realise”

“From Israel’s point of view, Cameron is certainly better because he understands much better the challenges Israel is facing.”

However, another diplomat expressed the view that Mr Cameron was much closer to his Israeli counterpart than the Foreign Office would like.

On Friday morning, hours before the final results of the General Election had been announced and the Conservative Party’s majority confirmed, Mr Netanyahu had already tweeted his congratulations to Mr Cameron on his “impressive victory & renewed mandate. I look forward to working with you on shared goals of peace & prosperity”.

Congrats to @David_Cameron on impressive victory & renewed mandate. I look forward to working with you on shared goals of peace & prosperity

The next day, Mr Netanyahu was one of the first international leaders to call Downing Street and congratulate Mr Cameron in person.

These were not just diplomatic formalities - the Israeli government was hugely relieved by the Conservatives’re-election, and even more so at their remaining in power without their Liberal-Democrat coalition partners.

On a personal level, Mr Netanyahu regards his British counterpart as a “true friend”; not only a supporter of Israel but a man who shares many of his own conservative views on economic, social and security issues.

Mr Netanyahu sees him as a member of a tiny group of world leaders, which include as well the prime ministers of Canada and India, who are instinctively pro-Israel and, unlike the current leaders of the United States, France and Germany, do not temper their support with criticism of his own policies.

There was regret at the defeat of a number of prominent pro-Israel front-benchers - particularly Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy and Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls - but in general the consensus among Israeli officials closely following British politics was that it had been a good night for the pro-Israel camp in Parliament.

There was also satisfaction at the failure of Business Secretary Vince Cable to win his seat. He had pushed for a ban on arms export licences to Israel during the Gaza conflict last summer.

The one note of apprehension in the Israeli assessment of the election result is that Mr Cameron and his team will have to spend a major portion of their time and political capital over the next two years in renegotiating Britain’s membership of the European Union. This is likely to prevent them from energetically fighting Israel’s corner against possible sanctions, or in the next and possibly ultimate round of talks on a nuclear deal with Iran.

Read all our Election 2015 coverage here

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