Israel congratulates Boris Johnson on becoming UK prime minister

The former London mayor and foreign minister has Jewish roots and appears to be markedly pro-Israel.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel’s top officials warmly applauded Boris Johnson on becoming Theresa May’s successor as prime minster of the United Kingdom on Tuesday.

“Heartfelt congratulations from Jerusalem, @BorisJohnson,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted. “Looking forward to working closely together, both in facing our common challenges and seizing the opportunities ahead.”

Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz sent Johnson a “mazal tov,” while thanking May for having been a “true friend” to Israel in a post on Twitter.

President Reuven Rivlin also sent congratulations, tweeting, ““I am confident that under your leadership the excellent bilateral relations between our two countries will go from strength to strength. I hope to see you back here in Israel soon.”

Johnson won 66 percent of the vote among the Conservative Party’s membership, beating rival Jeremy Hunt.

The former London mayor and British foreign secretary is generally considered to be a good friend of the Jewish state. He has vocally stood against the BDS movement, saying on a visit to Israel in 2015 that he could “not think of anything more foolish” than the anti-Israel boycott movement.

He has called himself “a passionate Zionist,” an unusual statement in today’s political climate, although he said it during an election campaign. He could back up those words with early, though brief, action, as he spent 10 days in the summer of 1984 as a volunteer at Kibbutz Kfar HaNasi, doing laundry and washing dishes, according to an interview in Israel Hayom. He then went on to tour the country while his sister, who had come with him, remained on the kibbutz for three months.

Johnson has visited Israel several times since. During his tenure as mayor, he visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, calling it “an incredibly emotional experience,” and prayed at the Western Wall in the Old City.

His support for the Jewish state could be seen at the United Nations as well. Last year, he told the Human Rights Council at its opening session that its continuous condemnation of Israel was wrong.

“We share the view that the dedicated Agenda Item 7 focused solely on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace, and unless things change, we shall vote next year against all resolutions introduced under Item 7,” he said. The UK has since faithfully carried through on its threat.

Johnson has some Jewish blood in his veins, with a Jewish maternal great-grandfather who hailed from Moscow.

“I feel Jewish when I feel the Jewish people are threatened or under attack, that’s when it sort of comes out,” he told the Jewish Chronicle in 2007. “When I suddenly get a whiff of anti-Semitism, it’s then that you feel angry and protective.”

The outspoken politician, who has been called “Britain’s Donald Trump,” has not been shy about censuring Labour leader Jeremy Corby over the rise of anti-Semitism in the party.

“I think by condoning anti-Semitism the way he does, I’m afraid he’s effectively culpable of that vice,” he said last week at an election debate.

He also called Corbyn “boneheaded” during the outcry last year over the Labour Party’s debate concerning the widely-accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.