London Mayor Boris Johnson.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The anti-settlement NGO Peace Now will brief British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on settlements on Wednesday, during his first working visit to Israel in his current role.
Johnson, who came to Jerusalem in September to attend former president Shimon Peres’s funeral, is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday evening.
After meetings with President Reuven Rivlin and opposition leader Isaac Herzog on Wednesday morning, Johnson is scheduled to travel to Nebi Samwil, on the northern outskirts of Jerusalem, where he will meet with Lior Amichai, head of Peace Now’s settlement watch team.
The Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria called on Johnson to meet with its representatives as well in order to gain a more balanced perspective on the issue.
UN Security Council passes resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building
Council deputy head Yigal Dilmoni said he learned of Johnson’s meeting with Peace took issue not with the briefing, but with the absence of a similar meeting with settlers.
“It’s not a problem for him to meet with different segments of Israeli society, but it’s not right to meet a body with such a clear agenda without hearing the truth from the other side,” Dilmoni said.
A meeting with council representatives will be in Johnson’s best interest, he said.
“It is important for [Johnson] to get the correct picture of what is happening in Judea and Samaria, and not a one-sided view that will make it difficult for him to understand the situation.”
If Johnson isn’t given a well-rounded understanding of the issues, he added, it will be hard for him to help his country formulate effective policy.
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan invited Johnson to visit the area “to see the reality” himself.
“[It is] unfortunate that someone connects extremist left-wing organizations with official representatives of foreign nations,” Dagan said. “This explains why time and again, European leaders raise anti-Israel initiatives.”
Britain was reportedly a key force behind the passage last December of the UN Security Council’s anti-settlement resolution 2334.
Nonetheless, Prime Minister Theresa May openly criticized then-US secretary of state John Kerry for his parting speech on the Middle East, in which he blasted the settlements.
The settlements, May said, “are far from the only problem in this conflict.”
Nebi Samwil provides a commanding view of Jerusalem and parts of Samaria. This type of briefing for foreign ministers on official visits is extremely rare.
After Nebi Samwil, Johnson will head to Ramallah for meetings, and in the afternoon will return to Jerusalem for a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset.
Johnson visited Israel as mayor of London in November 2015. Some Palestinian groups refused to meet him when he visited the Palestinian Authority, after he called British supporters of BDS “corduroy-jacketed, snaggle-toothed, lefty academics.” He added that he could not think of “anything more foolish” than to boycott Israel, which, he said, was a “country that, when all is said and done, is the only democracy in the region, the only place that has, in my view, a pluralistic, open society.”
Netanyahu met Johnson and May when he visited London last month.