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UK’s Johnson backs Israel’s right to defend itself ‘without equivocation’ from Iran

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to Conservative Friends of Israel in London, Britain, alongside Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, November 29, 2021. (Stuart Mitchell)
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to Conservative Friends of Israel in London, Britain, alongside Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, November 29, 2021. (Stuart Mitchell)

In his speech to the Conservative Friends of Israel, alongside Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson opens with an anecdote about being hoisted up in a cherry-picker to light the menorah in Trafalgar Square with a blowtorch.

In his typical “BoJo” style, Johnson jokes about the Mossad possessing footage of him dancing on tables during an event in Tel Aviv, in case they need it “for strategic purposes.” He also jokes that the Maccabees were “a great Scottish tribe.”

Turning to COVID-19, Johnson says: “Is it not extraordinary that it should be the two populations of Britain and Israel — both fiercely independent-minded, both lovers of liberty as Yair has just said, free nations reluctant to be told what to do — and yet it is we, our two populations, that have been the most dynamic and enthusiastic about getting our [vaccine] jabs.”

He announces that a UK-Israel innovation summit will take place in London in March.

Johnson emphasizes Britain’s support for Israel “to defend itself without equivocation from hostile states like Iran.”

“We hope that diplomacy can work,” he says. “But while the nuclear issue is the most urgent, Iran’s overall behavior has to change. Attacks at sea, the support for terrorism, the destabilization of the region, all form part of the same pattern.”

Johnson also underscores his government’s commitment to the struggle against antisemitism, and says he “deplores” the treatment of Israel’s envoy to the UK Tzipi Hotovely when she came to speak at the London School of Economics and had to be evacuated by guards as pro-Palestinians demonstrators jeered her.

“We have protected this country against the weevil infestation of antisemitism in the Labor Party,” he says to cheers.

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