Mixed bag of Cab­i­net posts in reshuf­fle

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

PRIME MIN­IS­TER Gor­don Brown’s reshuf­fle this week yielded a mixed bag as far as Jewish and Is­raeli in­ter­ests were con­cerned, with some ap­point­ments greeted with quiet sat­is­fac­tion and oth­ers with mild con­cern.

Aside from com­ments on the re­turn of Peter Man­del­son, who one Is­raeli diplo­mat said had been “ex­tremely friendly” to­wards Is­rael as EU trade com­mis­sioner, the move that drew the most re­sponse was that of Sadiq Khan as min­is­ter for Com­mu­nity Co­he­sion.

As they will have to work with him closely, none of the com­mu­nity leaders who spoke to the JC was will­ing to be quoted. But they ad­mit­ted to a cer­tain de­gree of con­cern at the ar­rival of the MP, who as a so­lic­i­tor fought for an­ti­semitic preacher Louis Far­rakhan to be al­lowed to en­ter the UK, and who is a reg­u­lar par­tic­i­pant in events or­gan­ised by the Mus­lim Coun­cil of Bri­tain.

Mr Khan will be in charge of, a mong o t h e r things, im­ple­ment­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions of the par­lia­men­tary in­quiry on a nt i s e miti s m. Some ob­servers be­lieve that his pro­mo­tion was a “bal­anc­ing act” byMrBrown,who had en­raged Mus­lim groups a day ear­lier by mak­ing out­spo­ken Phil Woolas im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter.

For­eign Sec­re­tary David Miliband (ac­cord­ing to his Rosh Hashanah mes­sage, now of­fi­cially one of “us”) re­mains in post and the reshuf­fle gave fur­ther ad­vance­ment to his brother Ed. But pre­ma­ture an­nounce­ments on Mon­day on changes in the For­eign Of­fice caused a stir when it seemed that Lord Mal­loch-Brown, never seen as a pro-Is­rael min­is­ter, would be mov­ing side­ways to take the Mid­dle East brief.

A few hours later it emerged that Lord Mal­loch-Brown would re­main min­is­ter for Africa and the UN. Bill Ramell be­comes the new min­is­ter in charge of Mid­dle East af­fairs, in­stead of Kim Howells.

The de­mo­tion of Dr Howells is con­sid­ered a loss as he is seen as a staunch friend of Is­rael, as is Europe Min­is­ter Jim Mur­phy, who also left the For­eign Of­fice to be­come Scot­tish Sec­re­tary.

Mr Mur­phy’s re­place­ment, Caro­line Flint, is also a keen sup­porter of Is­rael, but Mr Ramell is still viewed with some sus­pi­cion. As uni­ver­si­ties min­is­ter, he was in charge of the gov­ern­ment’s cam­paign against the anti-Is­rael boy­cott. But sources in the Is­raeli For­eign Min­istry sug­gest that he was only act­ing on Tony Blair’s or­ders and even dur­ing his visit to Is­rael last year could be termed as at best “luke­warm”.

An­other new ap­point­ment at the For­eign Of­fice is ju­nior min­is­ter Gil­lian Mer­ron, a Jewish MP who has not been closely as­so­ci­ated with com­mu­nity or Is­rael af­fairs.

Ivan Lewis, the health min­is­ter, has been moved side­ways, to a ju­nior post in the Depart­ment for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment. Mr Lewis, a for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Manch­ester Jewish Fed­er­a­tion, and a for­mer vice-chair­man of Labour Friends of Is­rael, was re­cently em­broiled in a con­tro­versy in­volv­ing a fe­male as­sis­tant.

Sadiq Khan: con­tro­ver­sial

Gil­lian Mer­ron: low-pro­file

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