British Prime Minister Boris Johnson published an op-ed today calling on Israel to cease its plans to annex the West Bank.
Johnson wrote from the perspective of a “friend” to Israel in the Israeli news outlet Ynet.
“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,” he wrote.
Israel’s unity government formed in May, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to start annexing parts of Palestinian territory in the West Bank on July 1.
The plan has hit roadblocks recently, making Netanyahu’s planned start date today unattainable. The United States is open to annexation conditionally but wants Netanyahu’s partners in the government, the Blue and White party, to be fully on board. Blue and White leader and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the July 1 start date is “not sacred” on Monday. A Netanyahu confidant also said today that annexation will not move forward on the planned date due to the need for full backing from the United States.
Johnson published the op-ed today when annexation was supposed to begin. In the article, Johnson recalled his several trips to Israel, which began when he was a teenager. The article was not a hit piece against Israel. Johnson argued that annexation would hurt Israel by damaging its improved relations with Arab and Muslim states.
“Annexation would put in jeopardy the progress that Israel has made in improving relationships with the Arab and Muslim world,” wrote Johnson. He added, “Israel’s enemies would seize upon it and use it against those in the Middle East who want to see progress.”
Israel has recently grown closer to Gulf countries due to their shared concerns over Iran.
Johnson also wrote that annexation would violate international law and called on both Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate an end to the conflict.
Johnson’s comments come amid rising international opposition to annexation. In an unprecedented op-ed in Israeli media last month, the United Arab Emirates Ambassador the United States Yousef Al-Otaiba also argued that annexation would hurt Israel’s desire for improved relations with the Arab world. Otaiba’s article was likewise on Ynet.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II is also vehemently opposed to annexation, saying it could cause a “massive conflict.” Jordan, Israel’s neighbor that has a high population of people with Palestinian origins, is one of only two Arab countries to have full relations with Israel — the other being Egypt.
Some members of the US Congress have also come out against annexation recently.
Most West Bank residents are Palestinian and Arabic-speaking. Control is divided between the Israeli military and the Palestinian Authority. Thousands of Jewish Israeli settlers began living there after Israel took the West Bank from Jordan during the 1967 war. Netanyahu’s plans are to annex the settlements and the Jordan Valley in the territory.
Annexation is supported by nationalists on the Israeli right who believe the area has religious significance and is necessary for Israel’s security. Palestinians, however, feel it denies them self-determination and will further enable violations of their human rights. There is also opposition from the Israeli left and some Israeli settlers in the West Bank.