UK Foreign Secretary Johnson expressed “rock-like” support for Israel and the bond between the two countries.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Wednesday with UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, during which Johnson declared the UK is “firm, strong supporters, rock-like supporters of Israel.”
During a press conference before their meeting, Johnson recalled his first visit to Israel when he was 18 and worked in a kibbutz and “made a not very substantial contribution to the Israeli economy,” as he put it.
“Our government in the UK, Theresa May and I and all our government are, as you know, firm, strong supporters, rock-like supporters of Israel,” he declared. “And what we want is to see an Israel that is at peace with its neighbors.”
He underscored the UK’s policy of supporting a two-state solution, “which is what we want to achieve and hope to help to bring about in a modest and humble way… We want to help remove the obstacles to that solution.”
One of the primary obstacles to peace is Palestinian terrorism and violence, he said.
“Israel has a, first and foremost, an absolute right to live in security and the people of Israel deserve to be safe from terrorism,” he declared. “That’s our absolute priority and we work with you, as you know, in all kinds of ways to ensure the stability of the entire region.”
He also said the “settlements,” Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, are an obstacle to peace, an opinion Netanyahu vehemently disagrees with.
He stated his belief that there is an “opportunity now” for peace.
“I think things have changed in the world. I know that you’re flying around a great deal and talking to people across the world. I do think there’s a chance to look at this issue afresh. And what we want to emphasize is that we are not only here to help, but we are, as you know, building a global identity as a Britain that’s coming out of the EU and we want to build on our trading partnership with you,” he stated.
The UK is the biggest European trading partner with Israel.
“We’ve done some fantastic export deals with you in the last few months. But you are also huge contributors to the UK economy. So I’m very pleased that one of the things that you agreed with our prime minister, Theresa May, was to set up a working group so that we could go forward together towards a new free trade agreement, and that’s what we will achieve,” he concluded.
Celebrating the “Great Partnership” Between Israel and the UK
Netanyahu said he was looking forward to coming to London for the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which will be marked on November 2, “and also to celebrate the great partnership between us.”
The Balfour Declaration was a letter penned by British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to prominent Jewish community leader Lord Walter Rothschild in 1917. It represents the first political recognition of Zionist aims by a global power. The declaration expressed support for establishing “a national home for the Jewish people” in the Land of Israel.
“We are enhancing our cooperation in economics, in technology, in security, in cooperation in the field of cyber, in many, many other areas. And we also seek a world that’s secure and peaceful, and I look forward to discussing both of these things with you,” Netanyahu stated.
On the peace process, Netanyahu noted, “It’s evident we agree on most things, but not on all things. And one of the things, I think the source of it when you analyze a problem, get to its roots and the reason we haven’t had peace for a hundred years is not the settlements, but the persistent refusal to recognize a nation-state for the Jewish people in any boundary. I think if you want to solve a problem, go to the core of the problem.”
In a separate meeting with Johnson, President Reuven Rivlin asked the foreign secretary to invite the British royal family to Israel later this year for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.