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Johnson criticises Israel’s plans to annex Palestinian land

Jonathan Brady

By Sam Blewett, PA Political Correspondent

Boris Johnson has urged Israel not to annex Palestinian land, warning the move would be illegal and jeopardise relations in the Middle East.

The Prime Minister on Wednesday vowed not to recognise any change to the border if the plan, met with extensive international condemnation, goes ahead.

But there were signs of a delay to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal, which is in line with US president Donald Trump’s much-criticised plan for the Middle East.

Mr Johnson warned Mr Netanyahu against the move which he said he learned “with sadness” as a “life-long friend” of Israel.

“Annexation would put in jeopardy the progress that Israel has made in improving relationships with the Arab and Muslim world,” the PM wrote in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

“But however strong their interest in a different kind of relationship with Israel, annexation would inevitably set back these opportunities and constrain potential Arab partners. Israel’s enemies would seize upon it, and use it against those in the Middle East who want to see progress.

“Annexation would represent a violation of international law. It would also be a gift to those who want to perpetuate the old stories about Israel.

“I profoundly hope that annexation does not go ahead. If it does, the UK will not recognise any changes to the 1967 lines, except those agreed between both parties.”

Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel’s foreign minister, said Mr Netanyahu’s plan would not begin on its target date of Wednesday.

Mr Netanyahu had earlier signalled a delay, saying the plan would begin “in the coming days”.

The UN secretary-general, the EU and key Arab nations have all said the annexation would violate international law and undermine the goal of creating a viable independent Palestine state alongside Israel.

In the 1967 Middle East war, Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan and the international community considers Israel’s more than 210 settlements to be illegal.