Newly reelected British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged Thursday to fulfill an election campaign promise to introduce legislation aimed at undermining the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
Speaking at a House of Commons debate following the Queen’s Speech, Johnson said his government “will stop public bodies from taking it upon themselves to boycott goods from other countries to develop their own pseudo-foreign policy, against a country which with nauseating frequency turns out to be Israel.”
The speech, traditionally given by the reigning monarch at the opening of parliament and outlining the priorities of the incoming government, did not specifically mention the measure but said that the government “will work closely with international partners to help solve the most complex international security issues and promote peace and security globally.”
Johnson’s Conservative Party, which won a landslide victory in last week’s general election, pledged to ban local councils from boycotting products from foreign countries, including Israel, in its election policy manifesto released last month.
“We will ban public bodies from imposing their own direct or indirect boycotts, disinvestment or sanctions campaigns against foreign countries. These undermine community cohesion,” the document read.
Introducing a law against such boycotts would prevent Labour-majority local councils from imposing boycotts against Israel, according to the Jewish Chronicle weekly newspaper.
Johnson has previously spoken out against BDS, telling the BBC in 2015 that he could “not think of anything more foolish than to say that you want to have any kind of divestment or sanctions or boycott against a country that, when all is said and done, is the only democracy in the region.”
In its own manifesto, the opposition Labour party vowed that, if elected, it would “immediately recognize the state of Palestine” and stop selling weapons to Israel.
Johnson’s Conservatives won 365 seats in the House of Commons, their best performance since party icon Margaret Thatcher’s last victory in 1987. Labour slumped to 203 seats, the party worst showing since 1935. Its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, subsequently stated that he would resign the party leadership but declined to provide a timetable for his exit.
Jewish groups have accused Corbyn of allowing a massive rise in anti-Semitism within the ranks of his party, once considered the natural home of British Jewry. Thousands of cases of alleged hate speech against Jews have been recorded within Labour since 2015, when Corbyn was elected to lead the party.
Much of the fear of Corbyn was spurred by revelations about his past record that have emerged since he became Labour leader. These include him describing Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”; defending an anti-Semitic mural in East London; and a seeming willingness to associate with alleged anti-Semites, terrorists, and Holocaust-deniers.
Both President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Johnson on his victory, stating that it was a positive development for Israel-UK relations.