Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson emphasised Britain’s desire to “bolster and build” bilateral relations with Israel, in his first official working visit to the Jewish State this week as Foreign Secretary.
Foreign Secretary Johnson held a series of meetings on Wednesday, including with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, and leader of the opposition Isaac Herzog.
He underlined that the UK and Israel’s future is cooperation: “We see our historic role in Israel and in the region, and we want to bolster and build our bilateral relations. The future is cooperation”.
In a meeting with Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, the Foreign Secretary said Britain is “looking forward to the commemorations” marking the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.
Condemning Palestinian violence, the Foreign Secretary said: “there is of course the need for the Israeli people to feel that they can live in security without the fear of terrorism and violence”.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu, he said: “Our Government in the UK, Theresa May and I, and all our Government are firm, strong supporters of Israel”.
He underlined: “Israel has, first and foremost, and absolute right to live in security. The people of Israel deserve to be safe from terrorism. That’s our absolute priority”.
Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomed Johnson and said: “I look forward to coming to London for the hundredth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, and also to celebrate the great partnership between us. 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”.
President Rivlin asked Foreign Secretary Johnson to pass on an invitation to the royal family to visit Israel, stating: “This is a very important year in the history of the relations between Israel and the United Kingdom. We will mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration and I am greatly honoured to extend an official invitation to the royal family to visit Israel to mark this event”.
President Rivlin and Mr Johnson continued to discuss recent developments in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and hopes for the peace process.
Mr Johnson reaffirmed the UK Government’s commitment to a two-state solution, telling reporters in Ramallah that UK policy remains “absolutely unchanged” to “that vision, for the resolution of this conflict”.
Mr Johnson also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, and Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki.
During a 2015 trade mission to Israel when Mr Johnson was Mayor of London, he stated that he could not think of “anything more foolish” than to boycott Israel, which he deemed “a country that, when all is said and done, is the only democracy in the region, the only place that has, in my view, a pluralistic, open society”.
In January 2017, the UK Government refused to sign the final statement of the Paris Peace Conference, voicing reservations about agreeing to anything without Israeli or Palestinian representatives present. It was also stated that the summit might harden Palestinian negotiation positions.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office official statement at the time said: “We have particular reservations about an international conference intended to advance peace between the parties that does not involve them – indeed which is taking place against the wishes of the Israelis”.