Boris Johnson has written an opinion piece for an Israeli newspaper saying that the United Kingdom views any move to annex Palestinian land as violation of international law which will not be accepted by London.
His piece in Yedioth Ahronot comes on the day that Prime Minister Netanyahu had pledged to begin the process of annexing Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley as part of a “peace plan” devised by Donald Trump’s U.S. administration.
Johnson wrote that it was “with sadness that I have followed the proposals to annex Palestinian territory. As a life-long friend, admirer and supporter of Israel, I am fearful that these proposals will fail in their objective of securing Israel’s borders and will be contrary to Israel’s own long-term interests.
“Annexation would put in jeopardy the progress that Israel has made in improving relationships with the Arab and Muslim world. I have never been more convinced that Israel’s interests overlap with those of our closest partners in the Arab world, including potential security cooperation against shared threats.
“But however strong their interest in a different kind of relationship with Israel, annexation would inevitably set back these opportunities and constrain potential Arab partners. Israel’s enemies would seize upon it, and use it against those in the Middle East who want to see progress.”
Johnson said he has had a profound attachment to Israel since the age of 18 when he spent time in a kibbutz.
“I am a passionate defender of Israel,” he said. “Few causes are closer to my heart than ensuring its people are protected from the menace of terrorism and anti-Semitic incitement. The UK has always stood by Israel and its right to live as any nation should be able to, in peace and security. Our commitment to Israel’s security will be unshakable while I am Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.”
But he concluded: “Annexation would represent a violation of international law. It would also be a gift to those who want to perpetuate the old stories about Israel. I profoundly hope that annexation does not go ahead. If it does, the UK will not recognize any changes to the 1967 lines, except those agreed between both parties.
“There is another way. Like many Israelis, I am frustrated that peace talks have ended in failure. While I understand the frustration felt by both sides, we must now use the energy of this moment once more to come back to the table and strive to hammer out a solution. This will require compromise on all sides…
“I am immensely proud of the UK’s contribution to the birth of Israel with the 1917 Balfour Declaration. But it will remain unfinished business until there is a solution which provides justice and lasting peace for both Israelis and Palestinians. The only way it can be achieved is for both sides to return to the negotiating table. That must be our goal. Annexation would only take us further away from it.”
The West Bank was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War.
The Oslo Accords, signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel, created administrative districts with varying levels of Palestinian autonomy within each area. Area C, in which Israel maintains complete civil and security control, accounts for over 60% of the territory of the West Bank.
As of July 2017 the West Bank has an estimated population of 2,747,943 Palestinians and approximately 391,000 Israeli settlers, as well as approximately another 201,200 Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem.
The international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.