UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Settler leaders on Monday called on British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to visit them this week during his first working trip to Israel.
The leaders spoke out after learning that Johnson would be briefed at Nebi Samuel (the Tomb of Samuel) on Wednesday by the anti-settlement NGO Peace Now.
The Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria said Johnson should similarly meet its representatives in order to receive a more balanced report of the regional situation.
Council deputy head Yigal Dilmoni said he had learned of the matter only on Monday and stressed that his issue was not the Peace Now briefing, but rather the absence of a similar meeting with settlers.
“It’s not a problem for him to meet with different segments of Israeli society,” Dimoni said. “But it’s not right to meet a body with such a clear agenda without hearing the truth from the other side.”
A meeting with council representatives would be in Johnson’s best interest, Dilmoni added.
“It is important for [Johnson] to get the correct picture of what is happening in Judea and Samaria and not a one sided option that will make it difficult for him to understand the situation,” Dilmoni said.
If Johnson isn’t provided with a well-rounded understanding of the issues, it will be hard for him to help his country formulate effective policy on the issues relating to the conflict, he added.
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan invited Johnson to visit the Shomron region and "to see the reality with his own eyes."
Although the Foreign Ministry had nothing at all with setting up this meeting, Dagan said it was "unfortunate that someone connects extremist left-wing organizations with official representatives of foreign nations. This explains why time and again European leaders raise anti-Israeli initiatives."
Britain was reportedly a key force behind the passage last December of 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 Mideast in which he blasted the settlements. The settlements, May said, “are far from the only problem in this conflict.”
Johnson, who came to Jerusalem briefly in September to attend Shimon Peres' funeral, is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday evening.
After meetings with President Reuven Rivlin and Opposition Leader Yaakov Herzog on Wednesday morning, Johnson is scheduled to go to Nebi Samuel on the northern outskirts of Jerusalem, and be given a briefing by Lior Amichai, who heads Peace Now's Settlement Watch Project, which monitors settlement construction.
Nebi Samuel provides a commanding view of Jerusalem and parts of Samaria. This type of briefing for foreign ministers on official visits is extremely rare. From Nebi Samuel Johnson will go to Ramallah, for meetings and in the afternoon return to Jerusalem for a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset.
Johnson, a former mayor of London, visited Israel in that capacity in November 2015. Some Palestinian groups at the time refused to meet him when he visited the Palestinian Authority, after he called British supporters of BDS “corduroy-jacketed, snaggletoothed, lefty academics.”
He added, “I cannot think of anything more foolish” than to boycott Israel. Israel, he said, is 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, as well as May, when he visited London last month.