UK's Johnson urges for Palestinian statehood
In light of 100 years since Balfour Declaration's citing of Jewish people's right to sovereignty in Land of Israel, UK Foreign Min. Johnson praises Israel as 'liberal democracy' while reiterating need to establish Palestinian state alongside it; 'I see no contradiction in being a friend of Israel and being deeply moved by the suffering of those dislodged by its birth,' writes Johnson.
British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson penned an op-ed on Monday, published by Yedioth Ahronoth and the Daily Telegraph. In it, he refers to the declaration made 100 years ago by then-British foreign minister, Lord Arthur Balfour, in which the United Kingdom recognized the Jewish people's right to an autonomous, sovereign state in the Land of Israel, while also stressing the need to protect non-Jewish communities.
"It was here in this room, beneath this same gilded ceiling, that one chapter of the story began. On November 2, 1917, my predecessor Lord Balfour sat in the Foreign Secretary’s office, where I am writing now, and composed a letter to Lord Rothschild. The essence of the Balfour Declaration consists of one sentence of 67 words; those were the carefully calibrated syllables that laid the foundations of the State of Israel."
"Balfour declared that 'His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people'; with the famous and crucial provision that 'nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities.'"
Johnson went on to commend Israel's perseverance and prosperity in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
"In the seven decades since its birth, Israel has prevailed over what has sometimes been the bitter hostility of neighbors to become a liberal democracy and a dynamic hi-tech economy. In a region when many have endured authoritarianism and misrule, Israel has always stood out as a free society.
"Like every country, Israel has its faults and failings. But it strives to live by the values in which I believe," continued Johnson.
Learning of Israel through kibbutz kitchen duties
Johnson recalled seeing Israel's tonacity and spirit as a kibbutz volunteer. "I served a stint in the kibbutz in my youth, and (though I was mainly washing up) I saw the miracle of Israel: the bonds of hard work, self-reliance and an audacious and relentless energy that hold together a remarkable country.
"Most of all, there is the incontestable moral goal: to provide a persecuted people with a safe and secure homeland. So I am proud of Britain's part in creating Israel, and Her Majesty's Government will mark the Centenary of the Balfour Declaration on Thursday in that spirit."
'Two independent and sovereign states'
Johnson's other point, though, is that while Israel is undoubtedly the legitimate home of the Jewish people, the reality of that statement has come with a cost to another people: the Palestinians.
"I see no contradiction in being a friend of Israel—and a believer in that country's destiny—while also being deeply moved by the suffering of those affected and dislodged by its birth. The vital caveat in the Balfour Declaration—intended to safeguard other communities—has not been fully realised."
"I have no doubt that the only viable solution to the conflict resembles the one first set down on paper by another Briton, Lord Peel ... and that is the division of two states for two people.
"For Israel, the birth of a Palestinian state is the only way to secure its demographic future as a Jewish and democratic state. For Palestinians, a state of their own would allow them self-determination and self-government."
Johnson states that "there should be two independent and sovereign states: a secure Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, standing alongside a viable and contiguous Palestinian state, the homeland for the Palestinian people."
He adds that future agreements should be based on the '67 borders. "The borders should be based on the lines they stood on June 4, 1967—the eve of the Six-Day War—with equal land swaps to reflect the national, security, and religious interests of the Jewish and Palestinian peoples."
Johnson further states that he is optimistic as to Israel's relations with the younger generation of Arab and Muslim leaders in the region, who hold a different view of the country. "I am also heartened that the new generation of Arab leaders does not see Israel in the same light as their predecessors.
"It is Israelis and Palestinians who must negotiate the details and write their own chapter in history. A century on, Britain will give whatever support we can in order to close the ring and complete the unfinished business of the Balfour Declaration," concludes Johnson in his op-ed, calling on both peoples to come together for peace.