UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that he “loves” the “great country” of Israel and considers himself a “passionate Zionist”.

In an exclusive interview with UK newspaper Jewish News, Johnson – the former British foreign secretary who is now hoping to lead the ruling Conservative Party and, therefore, the country – yesterday described himself as a “passionate Zionist” and Israel as a “great country” that “I love”.

Johnson also sought to clarify his previous comments about Israel’s 2014 assault on the besieged Gaza Strip, which he once described as “disproportionate”.

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Johnson yesterday said “it’s totally unacceptable that innocent Israeli civilians should face the threat of rocket fire and bombardment from Gaza,” adding: “I understand why Israel reacted in the way that it did and I understand the provocation and the outrageous behaviour that occasioned that response.”

Israeli PM-Netanyahu-and-Boris-Johnson
Israeli PM-Netanyahu-and-Boris-Johnson

He continued: “Those of us who support Israel always want Israel to show the greatest possible restraint [but] Israel has a right to respond, Israel has a right to defend itself. Israel has a right to meet force with force.”

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As for the Iran’s breaching of the nuclear deal, Johnson told the Jewish News, “I think that there are enough tensions in that region without triggering a nuclear arms race, whose consequences would be very hard to foresee, and which would certainly pose very difficult choices for any Israeli government.

“I certainly think you could not fault the UK government for being tough on Iran’s sanction busting. As Prime Minister, I’d make sure we continue to do everything we can to constrain Iran’s disruptive behaviour in the region,” he said.

Concerning a Palestinian state, Johnson said that should only happen when Palestinian leaders “meaningfully recognize Israel and stop threatening to revoke recognition.”

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Boris Johnson visits the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem
Boris Johnson visits the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem

Johnson also discussed other aspects of the UK’s relationship with Israel, saying he was “proud to be the Mayor who led the first ever London-Israel trade mission” in 2015. Johnson served as mayor of UK capital London from 2008 to 2016, but stressed that, if he becomes the UK prime minister later this month, he “will be actively supporting trade and commercial engagements of all kinds [with Israel]”.

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