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9 Mar, 2017 11:57

Boris Johnson in Israel: ‘Alternative to 2-state solution is apartheid’

Boris Johnson in Israel: ‘Alternative to 2-state solution is apartheid’

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has warned the alternative to a two-state solution for Israel-Palestine is an “apartheid system,” but at the same time stressed his “rock-like” support for Israel, local media reports.

“What we are saying is that you have to have a two-state solution or else you have a kind of apartheid system,” Johnson told the Jerusalem Post during his 24-hour visit to the region on Wednesday.

The two-state solution, in which a Palestinian state would exist in peace alongside Israel, is backed by the international community.

US President Donald Trump cast uncertainty over the idea, however, when he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February and said he would be open to a single state if it led to peace.

Palestinians fear they would not be given the same rights as Jews a single state.

When visiting Ramallah in the West Bank, Johnson stressed the UK government’s policy is “absolutely unchanged” and it remains committed to two states. He also reiterated to Netanyahu Britain’s “rock-like” support for Israel, but touched on the topic of settlement building.

“Israel has first and foremost an absolute right to live in security, and the people of Israel deserve to be safe from terrorism,” he said.

“Of course we must also try to remove obstacles to peace and progress such as the settlements,” he later added.

The international community considers the continued building of illegal settlements in the West Bank to be a major obstacle to peace.

Royal visit for Balfour centenary 

The first official visit of a British Royal to Israel looks set to go ahead this year to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. Repeated invitations to visit the Jewish state have been rejected by the Royals for decades.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin extended the invitation during a meeting with Johnson on Wednesday. Whitehall sources told the Times a Royal visit had been under discussion for some time and the invitation was likely to be accepted.

The 1917 Balfour Declaration pledged British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

“This is a very important year in the history of the relations between Israel and the United Kingdom,” Rivlin said.

No member of the Royal family has made an official trip to Israel since it was established in 1948. The refusal to sanction a visit has long been seen as a rebuke of Israeli policy towards Palestinians, and a bow to important regional allies like Saudi Arabia.

Netanyahu was also invited to Britain in November to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.

Last month, the Balfour Apology Campaign launched a petition calling on the British government to apologize for the declaration and lead peace efforts in Palestine.

The campaign, initiated by the Palestinian Return Centre and backed by Baroness Tong, a former Liberal Democrat MP who sits as an independent, urges the government to acknowledge its responsibility for colonial crimes in Palestine.

Earlier this year, Tong admitted she had gone “over-the-top” in a past comment about how pro-Israel groups had the West in their “financial grips,” and in 2012, was forced to resign the Lib Dem whip after claiming the State of Israel was “not going to be there forever.”

She finally quit the party last year.