Jewish, Israeli Leaders React to Brexit Outcome, Prime Minister Cameron’s Resignation
Jewish and Israeli leaders reacted on Friday to news that the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union and the subsequent resignation of the country’s prime minister, who said he was no longer capable of leading the country into a process which he staunchly opposed.
British voters headed to the polls Thursday in a national referendum to decide whether the UK should split from or remain a member state of the EU. The vote, dubbed Brexit, was preceded by months of intense debate and campaigning. Supporters of the Stronger In campaign — such as Prime Minister David Cameron — argued that the country would be safer and stronger as part of a larger European bloc. Proponents of the Vote Leave campaign — such as former London mayor Boris Johnson — presented a departure from the EU as an opportunity “to take back control and…spend our money on our priorities.” In the end, 52 percent of voters were in favor of leaving and 48 percent against.
The UK’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, said in a statement that regardless of how people view the results of the referendum, “The respective campaigns that led us to this point have sharply divided our country.” He called on the people of Britain to “unite so that the ensuing political upheaval does not adversely affect the most vulnerable in our society and that our moral leadership role in the world remains undiminished.”
“It is my hope and prayer that the polarization of the national debate about Europe will now give way to a composed recognition of our common values of respect and responsibility,” Mirvis said, offering up a prayer, “May the Almighty bless our political leaders with the wisdom and understanding to successfully chart this new course for the British people.”
Richard Verber — senior vice president of umbrella group the Board of Deputies of British Jews — called the referendum campaign “at times…divisive and bruising” and issued his “hope that the country will now come together, address the causes of disenchantment and remain committed to being an inclusive and affirmative place for all parts of our society.”
The head of the UK’s Reform Judaism movement, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, said “the campaign has been an emotional one that has at times divided our society in ways we might never have imagined.” She called on the country’s leaders to “move forward into a period of negotiations and redefining our relationship with the rest of Europe and the wider world.”
According to Jewish Insider, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told an Israeli radio station that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will present challenges for Israel, as Britain is an important ally of the Jewish state and has played a significant role in influencing EU decision-making when it comes to Israel.
Following the results of the referendum, Cameron announced early Friday morning that he would be stepping down as prime minister. In his resignation speech, Cameron said the UK needs a new leader who will be better suited to negotiate Brexit. “I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination,” he said.
“The country has just taken part in a giant democratic exercise — perhaps the biggest in our history. Over 33 million people — from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar — have all had their say,” he said outside 10 Downing Street. “Now the decision has been made to leave, we need to find the best way, and I will do everything I can to help. I love this country — and I feel honored to have served it. And I will do everything I can in future to help this great country succeed.”
The prime minister said a new leader — widely expected to be Johnson — will likely be in place by October.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to praise the British leader for his friendship with the Jewish state.
“I have great appreciation for Prime Minister David Cameron, a respected leader and a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people,” he said. “Throughout his premiership the security, economic and technological cooperation between the United Kingdom and Israel has greatly expanded. Togeth
Both Israeli Public Security Minister Gilan Erdan and the head of the Knesset’s Security and Foreign Affairs Committee, Avi Dichter, also hailed Cameron for his support of Israel.
“Cameron’s resignation is sad and unfortunate, but proves just how responsible and fair he was as a leader,” Erdan said in a statement. “A real gentleman.” The prime minister, Erdan said, showed a “profound friendship toward Israel,” praising him for his recent leadership in acting against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Dichter stated, “I hope his connection to Israel will last for many more years, and I’m confident the future leadership of Britain will continue to support Israel.”
Conservative Friends of Israel Honorary President Lord Polak told the Jewish Chronicle, “The Jewish community and Israel should be very sad today, but also deeply grateful to David Cameron who has been and is an outstanding friend.”
Gillian Merron, Board of Deputies chief executive, extended the UK Jewish community’s “heartfelt gratitude to Prime Minister David Cameron for his service to the country and his friendship to our community,” she said in a statement. “His legacy will be as someone who did not run away from difficult questions, but put them to the British people to decide.”
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, thanked Cameron for his “years of support…giving thousands of young people from across the country the opportunity to see where prejudice and hatred can lead — more crucial now than ever before — but also his establishment of the national Holocaust Commission and soon to be created Holocaust memorial beside our Parliament, which will ensure there is a lasting tribute to the Holocaust in this country for generations to come. This is a legacy for which we hope he is proud.”
Thursday’s referendum had the highest turnout of a UK-wide vote since the 1992 general election. More than 30 million people — or 71.8 percent of registered voters — cast their ballots. In order to set into motion the exit from the EU, Cameron or his successor must invoke an agreement called Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which begins the legal process of withdrawing from the continental body. The UK would then have two years to negotiate its formal withdrawal.
Reacting to the decision, global financial markets were sent into a tailspin on Friday, with world stocks seeing more than $2 billion wiped off their value. The British pound dropped to its lowest levels since 1985, falling as much as 10 percent against the dollar. The euro fell three percent. British banks saw a $100 billion loss, with Lloyds, Barclays and RBS falling as much as 30 percent.