UK prime ministerial hopeful Boris Johnson has said that he “loves” the “great country” of Israel and considers himself a “passionate Zionist”.
In an exclusive interview with UK newspaper Jewish News, Johnson – the former British foreign secretary who is now hoping to lead the ruling Conservative Party and, therefore, the country – yesterday described himself as a “passionate Zionist” and Israel as a “great country” that “I love”.
Boris Johnson: ‘Wild horses wouldn’t keep me away’ from visiting Israel as UK PM https://t.co/zTxMvB5t9B
— The Times of Israel (@TimesofIsrael) July 9, 2019
Johnson also sought to clarify his previous comments about Israel’s 2014 assault on the besieged Gaza Strip, which he once described as “disproportionate”. Johnson yesterday claimed “it’s totally unacceptable that innocent Israeli civilians should face the threat of rocket fire and bombardment from Gaza,” adding:
“I understand why Israel reacted in the way that it did and I understand the provocation and the outrageous behavior that occasioned that response.”
‘I am a passionate Zionist,’ declares Boris Johnson https://t.co/WWOlsX1M7r
— Maureen Fitzsimmons (@mojos55) June 23, 2019
“Those of us who support Israel always want Israel to show the greatest possible restraint [but] Israel has a right to respond, Israel has a right to defend itself. Israel has a right to meet force with force.”
Johnson also discussed other aspects of the UK’s relationship with Israel, saying he was “proud to be the Mayor who led the first-ever London-Israel trade mission” in 2015.
Johnson served as mayor of UK capital London from 2008 to 2016, but stressed that, if he becomes the UK prime minister later this month, he “will be actively supporting trade and commercial engagements of all kinds [with Israel]”.
“My strong advice to the Iranians would be not to take any further steps that would break the terms of the agreement, not to acquire a nuclear weapon,” said Johnson.https://t.co/UStjOfsVaT
— World Israel News (@worldisraelnews) July 10, 2019
The politician also addressed the prospect of moving the British Embassy to Israel to Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of US President Donald Trump’s December 2017 decision.
Johnson also appeared to label the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement anti-Semitic.
Johnson is no stranger to controversial statements: he has previously said that Muslim women wearing the burqa or niqab look like “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”.
— LaurelMd (@JuanWild51) July 10, 2019
These statements have caused concern about Johnson’s suitability for the position of prime minister, which he will automatically assume if he is elected as Conservative Party leader this month. Johnson could serve as prime minister until 2022 without holding a general election, which would represent five years since his soon-to-be-predecessor, Theresa May, held the UK’s last general election.
The results of the Conservative Party leadership race are expected on July 23, with May likely to step down as prime minister the following day.
(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)