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Prime Minister Johnson says UK will not recognise unilateral changes to the 1967 lines

What happened: Prime Minister Boris Johnson has written an op-ed, published on the front page of Israel’s popular daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot, warning of the dangers of annexation.

  • He wrote: “I am a passionate defender of Israel … 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. So it is 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.”
  • “Annexation would represent a violation of international law … I profoundly hope that annexation does not go ahead. If it does, the UK will not recognise any changes to the 1967 lines, except those agreed between both parties.”
  • “I still believe the only way to achieve true, lasting security for Israel, the homeland for the Jewish people, is through a solution that allows justice and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. I refuse to believe that this is impossible.”
  • “I welcome the commitment that President Trump has made to find a way forward. We will work tirelessly with the US – and other partners in the Arab world and Europe – to try to make peace a reality. 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 full article can be read here.
  • The EU’s top foreign policy chief Josep Borrell wrote in The Jerusalem Post yesterday: “For us in Europe, it is painful to see the prospect of the two-state solution, the only realistic and sustainable way to end this conflict, at risk. The project of annexation as announced by the government would mean the end of this solution. EU Member States think that the annexation would violate international law, and we are using every opportunity with the Israeli government to explain this, in a spirit of friendship.” Read the full op-ed here.
  • Yesterday the Dutch parliament passed a motion calling for the government to prepare sanctions against Israel if it applies its law in the West Bank. This follows the Belgian Parliament voting last week to create a list of potential “counter-measures” that could be implemented should Israel go forward with its West Bank plans.

Context: Prime Minister Boris Johnson becomes the second foreign official to publish an op-ed in Yediot Ahronot warning of the dangers of annexation, after the UAE Ambassador to the US, Yousef al-Otaiba.

  • According to the coalition agreement, July 1 was set as the earliest date for an Israeli government decision, but with discussions still ongoing no announcement is expected today.
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met yesterday with members of the Israel-US mapping team including, Avi Berkowitz, the special representative for international negotiations to President Trump and US Ambassador David Friedman. It is thought they are still considering various alternatives for applying sovereignty to the settlement blocs, possibly in several stages, though it appears the maximum position of including the Jordan Valley and all of the Jewish settlements is currently off the agenda.
  • Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also met Berkowitz yesterday. Ashkenazi later said: “We are facing significant regional opportunities. It behoves us to act with great responsibility to protect the State of Israel’s political and security interests while maintaining a perpetual dialogue with our friend, the United States, and the countries that neighbour us, and to do so without undermining security stability and the existing peace agreements.” This morning Ashkenazi told Army Radio, “I don’t know if there will be a declaration of sovereignty today, that should be asked of Netanyahu. It seems unlikely it will happen today.”
  • There is ongoing friction within the coalition over where and when to act in the West Bank on further implementing Trump’s peace plan. On Monday Alternate Prime Minister, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said during the Blue and White faction meeting that “anything that isn’t connected the coronavirus will wait until after the virus … July 1 isn’t a sacred date.” Yesterday, Netanyahu responded in kind saying,  “We have serious issues to discuss, so serious that they can’t wait until after the coronavirus.”

Looking ahead: Despite no imminent announcement, Palestinians are planning to protest this afternoon in Ramallah and Hebron. Similarly, there may also be protests in the Gaza Strip.

  • Supporters of applying sovereignty intend to hold a rally outside the homes of Prime Minister Netanyahu and other senior Likud officials. The protestors will carry signs that read, “The time for sovereignty has arrived. You made a promise, keep it.”
  • Meanwhile, opposing the move, this morning the Darkenu Movement will have a convoy of cars drive alongside Gantz from his home to the Knesset in a show of solidarity with his statement yesterday that “a million out of work Israelis aren’t interested in annexation”.