Grant Shapps
Grant ShappsREUTERS/Hollie Adams

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has tapped Jewish lawmaker Grant Shapps as his defense secretary after Ben Wallace formally handed in his resignation, The Jewish Chronicle reported.

Wallace announced last month that he would resign from the senior Cabinet role at the next reshuffle, bringing an end to his four years in the job.

Shapps is the first Jewish defense secretary for nearly three decades after Malcolm Rifkind, a Scottish MP whose family emigrated from Lithuania in the 1890s and who served in the role from 1992 to 1995.

He said he was "honored" to become defense secretary as he praised Wallace's time in the role.

"I'd like to pay tribute to the enormous contribution Ben Wallace has made to UK defense & global security over the last four years," wrote Shapps in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"As I get to work at Defense HQ I am looking forward to working with the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who defend our nation's security. And continuing the UK's support for Ukraine in their fight against Putin's barbaric invasion," he added.

Shapps, a former BBYO president, told The Jewish Chronicle in a 2010 interview that he was "totally Jewish".

"I don't eat pork, we only buy kosher meat and we don't mix meat and milk. I like being Jewish and I married a Jewish girl. It's like a way of life and it's good to be able to instill some of that sense of being in your kids," he said at the time.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the outgoing defense secretary and appeared to give his approval to Shapps as a successor.

"Sad to see the departure of my friend Ben Wallace. A fine Defense Secretary who got so many calls right - especially on Ukraine. Grant Shapps is an excellent choice to succeed him," Johnson wrote on X.