Boris Johnson: Arms embargo on Israel 'death wish of Western civilization'

Amid growing pressure in Britain to stop arms sales to Israel, former prime minister publishes scathing column in which he condemns the calls to 'let the jihadis win'
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sharply criticized his Conservative Party colleagues, especially Foreign Secretary David Cameron, in a scathing column published in the Daily Mail Friday over consideration of imposing an arms embargo on Israel.
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(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit, REUTERS/Ammar Awad)
Johnson warned that such a move could give Hamas a victory in the war, mentioning that Hamas does not care at all about humanitarian law.
"If you want an example of the death wish of Western civilisation, I give you the current proposal from members of the British establishment that this country should ban arms sales to Israel. If you want evidence of government madness, it appears that Foreign Office lawyers are busily canvassing the idea — which has not, as far as I can tell, yet been rejected by the Foreign Secretary himself. He seems to have gone into a kind of purdah on the subject," wrote Johnson.
Although the volume of exports to Israel is very small compared to the total British arms exports (only 0.4%), Israel fears countries will join the embargo rhetoric and act upon it. The international pressure on Israel has increased following the WCK incident in which three British humanitarian workers were accidentally killed by the IDF. Recently, 600 lawyers, including the president of the British Supreme Court, signed a letter demanding that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stop arms sales to Israel and warned of complicity in war crimes and even murder, joining Foreign Minister David Cameron's criticism of Israel.
In the opposition Labour Party, demands were made for the government to publish its legal assessment regarding Israeli compliance with international law, and to stop arms sales if, according to this assessment, Israel is in violation of the law. Alex Younger, former head of the British intelligence agency MI6, also called for using arms sales as leverage to pressure Israel. Prime Minister Sunak himself currently opposes the calls, but his foreign minister has not rejected them.
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שר החוץ של בריטניה דייוויד קמרון במפגש עם ראש ממשלת לבנון נג'יב מיקאתי ב ביירות
שר החוץ של בריטניה דייוויד קמרון במפגש עם ראש ממשלת לבנון נג'יב מיקאתי ב ביירות
British Foreign Minister David Cameron
(Photo: Reuters/ Mohamed Azakir)
Fearing pressure for an arms embargo is spreading in Cabinet, Johnson said "More alarming still, we are told that an Israeli arms ban is the subject of an active row in Cabinet, with only a handful of ministers positively sticking up for Israel. The contagion has spread pretty wide, and very fast. The proposed embargo is now supported by MPs on all sides, by the former head of MI6, by some former Supreme Court Justices, and by about 600 members of the legal profession, all of them clamouring for us to turn our backs on the only democracy in the Middle East."
Johnson worries that an arms embargo would allow Hamas to repeat the October 7 massacre and continue holding more than 130 captives, including the infant Kfir Bibas. "Let us be clear what it would mean, to ban arms sales now, when Israel is under a greater existential threat than at any time I can remember. If we ban the sale of arms ourselves, it surely follows that we do not think any self-respecting country should be arming the Israelis."
"And if we are willing everyone, including the U.S., to end their military support, be in no doubt what that means. There is only one logical conclusion. We are willing the military defeat of Israel and the victory of Hamas. Remember that in order to win this conflict, Hamas only has to survive. All they need at the end is to hang on, rebuild, and go again," he writes.
Johnson attempts to fight off the calls for an embargo by reminding the horrors of October 7. "There was a reason why they meticulously planned and then performed those unspeakable murders and rapes. There was a cold logic to the barbarism seen that day, to the beheadings and the burnings. They wanted to show Israelis, and anyone thinking of coming to Israel, that this was a place where ordinary and innocent families could be enveloped in violent catastrophe."
While Johnson does not take the suffering of the Gazans lightly, he elaborates on Hamas tactics. "They wanted to evoke global feelings of repulsion about events in Israel, and, of course, they wanted to provoke the Israelis into a violent response, because they knew that retaliation would inevitably forfeit sympathy for Israel around the world."
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פגישת בנימין נתניהו ובוריס ג'ונסון בלונדון
פגישת בנימין נתניהו ובוריס ג'ונסון בלונדון
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Prime Minister Boris Johnson
(Photo: AFP)
That’s why they took the hostages: to give Israel no choice but to fight. That’s why they refuse to give the hostages back. That’s why they prepared so carefully for the war, cynically designing their very defences so as to provoke the greatest loss of Palestinian life, and the greatest possible loss of Western support for Israel," he said.
"That’s why they built 400 miles of tunnels, and that’s why they made sure to conceal themselves beneath mosques, hospitals, schools and other civilian targets. They are actively using the death and suffering of their own citizens, maximising their pain and grief so as to rally international opinion against Israel — and we are falling for it," he added.
Concerning the World Central Kitchen incident, Johnson agrees that an investigation is necessary but distinguishes between Israel and Hamas. "It was shattering to see the recent killing, by the Israelis, of three British and other Western aid workers. There must be an inquiry. The Israelis must explain what happened, and bring to justice those responsible for what must surely have been a hideous mistake. But in all our grief and rage about what is happening on the ground in Gaza, we should not forget the essential moral difference between Hamas and Israel."
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