(JTA) — British Conservative Party leader Theresa May, who is expected to succeed David Cameron as prime minister when he resigns Wednesday, is being welcomed as a longtime friend of Britain’s Jewish community and a strong advocate for Israel.
May, 59, was named party leader Monday following weeks of jockeying and political turmoil surrounding the decision by voters to leave the European Union and Cameron’s subsequent decision to step down.
As the country’s home secretary, May was known to be a frequent guest at Jewish communal events, where she would praise Israel and British Jewry’s contributions to the country. The Community Security Trust and other Jewish groups thanked May for securing significant government funding to protect Jewish institutions in the wake of terrorist attacks in Europe.
Supporters recalled Monday that following the terrorist murders in 2015 at a kosher supermarket in Paris, May carried a sign to a Board of Deputies of British Jews meeting reading “Je Suis Juif” (I am Jewish) in solidarity with its victims.
In 2011, May banned from Britain the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, for encouraging extremism.
May has also pledged to defend kosher slaughter, which is under attack in many parts of Europe on animal cruelty grounds.
“As Home Secretary for six years, Mrs. May is better placed than most of her Westminster colleagues to assess the threats facing British Jews,” Marcus Dysch, a columnist for the Jewish Chronicle, wrote Monday.
Ansel Pfeffer, writing in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper last week, noted that shortly after visiting Israel in 2014, May told the Conservative Friends of Israel that in the face of threats from Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and Iran, Israel must “maintain a strong defense and security capability and be prepared to deploy it if necessary.”
At the same event, she also noted, “we must remember that there will be no lasting peace or justice in the region until the Palestinian people are able to enjoy full civil rights themselves.”
Eric Pickles, a member of Parliament and chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, said Monday: “As a politician not known for hollow platitudes, Israel can rest assured that a UK led by Theresa May will be there in its moments of need.”