Ed Miliband may be struggling to convince voters at home that he is the man to lead the country after the next election, but that has not stopped a leading Israeli newspaper from giving the Labour leader a top 20 billing in its annual list of the world’s most influential Jews.
The Leader of the Opposition has largely eschewed religion since being elected in 2010, carefully telling the BBC just after the Labour leadership election that while he respected those that have faith in the divine, “I don’t believe in God personally”.
His atheism has not stopped the Jerusalem Post from ranking Mr Miliband as the 20th most influential Jew on the planet, coming just three places behind New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg and four behind social networking whizz, Mark Zuckerberg, who gave the world Facebook. He even beats such luminaries as the Sara Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister’s wife, and Bar Refaeli, the supermodel.
If elected prime minister in two years’ time, Mr Miliband would be the first Jewish premier in the UK since Benjamin Disraeli left Downing Street in 1880. However, Mr Miliband may be a disappointment for those hoping for an ardently Jewish statesman. His well-known father, the Marxist Ralph Miliband brought up Ed and his brother, the former foreign secretary, David – who incidentally does not make the top 50 – in a strictly secular household.
David’s children attended a Church of England school, before he resigned his Commons seat and moved to New York to head the International Rescue Committee.
Earlier this year, the London-based Jewish Chronicle newspaper even questioned Mr Miliband’s commitment to Israel after he got himself into a pickle over whether or not he is a Zionist. Asked during a question and answer session whether he was a Zionist, Mr Miliband, who is the grandson of Holocaust survivors, replied that he was, and was also a supporter of Israel. “But it doesn’t mean that I’m not critical of the government of Israel, and I think there’s a distinction, and I think it’s very, very important that we are able to make that distinction,” he said.
The comments drew criticism from pro-Palestinian Labour figures, forcing Mr Miliband’s office to issue a statement saying that he had “not used the word Zionist to describe himself”, but said he had “made absolutely clear that he is a strong supporter of Israel”.
The Jerusalem Post decided that Yair Lapid, the Israeli TV host-turned-politician, is the world’s most influential Jew. Mr Lapid, who was recently appointed the country’s finance minister, despite not having any economic background, has become a maligned figure in Israel after his recently announced budget imposed tough income tax rises and public spending cuts.
In its citation of Mr Miliband, the Jerusalem Post, said: “On his way to the top, Ed Miliband, 43, had to step on a few heads. It just so happened that one of them was his brother, David, whom he only narrowly edged out in a run-off for leader of the UK Labor [sic] Party in 2010… when he was elected at age 40, Miliband was the youngest person ever to lead the Labor Party, and he is credited with maintaining party unity after the fractious primary. He has recently expressed plans to move the party in a different direction from his predecessors Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.”