'UK will not recognize' any unilateral changes to 1967 lines

In Hebrew op-ed, UK’s Johnson implores Israel to drop annexation bid

As 'passionate' Israel defender, British PM says he has followed Netanyahu's plan with 'sadness,' warns it will threaten budding relations with Arab states

Britain's then-Foreign Minister Boris Johnson attends the funeral of former Israeli president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl national cemetery on September 30, 2016. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Israel not to follow through with plans to annex large parts of the West Bank and warned that the UK would not accept the move, in a direct plea to Israelis published Wednesday as a front-page op-ed in a major Hebrew newspaper.

“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,” Johnson wrote in the latest appeal by a world leader against the controversial move, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to begin carrying out as early as Wednesday.

Recalling his experience as an 18-year-old cook on Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi and later making visits to Yad Vashem, attending former prime minister Shimon Peres’s funeral and biking down Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard as a senior politician, Johnson described himself as “a passionate defender of Israel.”

“So it is with sadness that I have followed the proposals to annex Palestinian territory. As a lifelong 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 in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily paper.

Johnson warned that the move would jeopardize Israel’s budding relations with states in the Arab and Muslim world. “Israel’s enemies would seize upon [the move], and use it against those in the Middle East who want to see progress,” he warned.

“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,” Johnson said.

“There is another way,” he asserted, while acknowledging the steep prices Israel has already paid over years of peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Johnson said that any solution to the conflict must provide “justice and security for both Israelis and Palestinians,” hinting that the Trump peace plan — the basis for Israel’s annexation bid — does not do that.

Nonetheless, the British prime minister concluded the op-ed by saying he welcomed US President Donald Trump’s “commitment” to the issue and vowed to work with the US, the Arab world and Europe “to try to make peace a reality.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson rides an electric scooter during his visit to Tel Aviv, Israel, November 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

Yedioth was also the platform of choice for the United Arab Emirates, whose ambassador to the US penned a similar op-ed recently warning that unilateral annexation would jeopardize the rapprochement between the Arab world and the Jewish state.

Netanyahu’s coalition agreement set July 1 as the date from which he can begin implementing US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal, which paves the way for the annexation of all settlements and the Jordan Valley, amounting to some 30 percent of the West Bank.

But as the sun rose on the self-imposed kick-off date, signs pointed against a major policy announcement, with the prime minister and his allies hinting that dramatic action was not imminent.

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