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ANALYSISLiz Truss could be the most pro-Israel British prime minister ever

Boris Johnson’s successor has said she would consider recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the British embassy there, but Truss probably won’t have much time for Israel in the near future.

This article originally appeared on Haaretz, and was reprinted here with permission. Sign up here to get Haaretz’s free Daily Brief newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Few expected Liz Truss to be a leading candidate to become Britain’s next prime minister when she visited Israel in June 2021, on her first and only visit to the country.

Her arrival coincided with the visit of the Royal Navy frigate HMS Richmond to Haifa, and the British Embassy took the opportunity to hold its summer party on deck – with the then-Secretary of State for International Trade the guest of honor. Only one, not very senior, Israeli minister (briefly) attended.

Truss, who was in Israel to negotiate a post-Brexit trade agreement, made a short speech extolling Britain’s excellent exports, ignoring the massive trade deficit – in Israel’s favor – between the two countries, and was hardly the life and soul of the party.

Two months later, in a cabinet reshuffle, she was promoted to foreign secretary and, as then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s scandalous premiership began to wobble this summer, emerged as one of the leading candidates to replace him.

On Monday, after a six-week leadership election campaign, 47-year-old Mary Elizabeth Truss was announced as the new leader of the Conservative party, beating Rishi Sunak after winning 57 percent of the membership vote. She will fly to Balmoral Castle in Scotland on Tuesday, where she will become Queen Elizabeth II’s 15th prime minister.

Truss’ meteoric rise in just a year, from little-known minister to the doorstep of No. 10 Downing Street, is the result of her unswerving loyalty to party leaders, her hard work, and a keen understanding of the prevailing mood among the Tories’ mainly male, old and affluent membership.

It’s what enabled the girl who was born into a family that she describes as to the left of Britain’s Labour party, who went on marches against nuclear arms and the iconic Margaret Thatcher, and who as a student activist called for the abolishment of the monarchy, to become Her Majesty’s First Lord of the Treasury and step into Mrs. Thatcher’s shoes.

And despite having been in favor of Britain remaining in the European Union (as a faithful follower of then-Prime Minister David Cameron), she was quick to “realize the error of my ways” and shift to an ultra-Brexiteer position within the party.

She overcame her main rival mainly because, unlike Sunak’s resignation as chancellor of the Exchequer that played a big role in bringing down Johnson, she remained loyal to him until the very end. And also because, despite the massive energy crisis facing Britain this coming winter, she repeated the low taxes/small government mantras so beloved of the Conservatives, while Sunak insisted on presented an actual economic plan. Only 32 percent of the party’s lawmakers voted for her, but once the decision became that of the 172,000 party members, she was on her way to the top.

It’s not just the party faithful who preferred Truss. In Jerusalem, there were those hoping for her to win as well. This wasn’t because anyone in the Israeli government had anything against Sunak: both candidates met with Jewish communities over the long weeks of campaigning, gave interviews to the Jewish newspapers and said all the right things about their support for Israel and the strong ties between the two countries.

Both of them, in a first for potential British prime ministers, said they would consider recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the British embassy there – though this was as much a populist jibe at the Civil Service and the Foreign Office’s professional diplomats, who would do everything to prevent such a recognition, than an expression of support for Israel.

Truss was preferred simply because she was known to Israelis – unlike Sunak, who has never dealt with foreign policy or visited Israel.

In her year as foreign secretary, Truss has gone out of her way to profess her staunch support for Israel and take a hard line on Iran. When Yair Lapid, as foreign minister, visited London last November, she made sure not only to have a long official meeting with him but a private dinner as well.

Over the past year, the routine condemnations of Israel’s policy in the West Bank were reduced to the bare minimum, their language toned down – as well as the level of officials delivering them.

Over the past year, the routine condemnations of Israel’s policy in the West Bank were reduced to the bare minimum, their language toned down – as well as the level of officials delivering them.

The biggest headache she will face from Day One is the energy crisis that will impact every British household (and many small businesses) this winter. As she becomes party leader and prime minister, the Conservatives are lagging behind Labour by around 10 percentage points in the polls. Truss will inherit a solid parliamentary majority from Johnson and in theory can continue until the end of 2024 without having an election. But as a prime minister elected by only her party members, the lack of a national mandate may make it hard for her to make difficult decisions.

Over the last couple of days, Truss’ aides have been briefing the media about her plans for a massive emergency aid package for Britons facing the cost-of-living crisis and to cap energy prices. It isn’t quite clear how this squares with her low taxation and noninterventionist pledges. She also faces major challenges from Scottish nationalists who are agitating for another independence referendum, and on the legal quagmire of Northern Ireland trade after Brexit.

She probably won’t have much time for Israel and Iran in the near future.

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