Britain signs deal with Israel to boost trade, defence and security ties

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly hosts Israeli counterpart in London for talks

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, left, and his Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen take a walk after their bilateral talks in London. Photo: No 10 Downing Street
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British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly hosted his Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen in London on Tuesday, where they signed an agreement to boost trade, defence and security ties.

The 2030 Road Map for UK-Israeli Bilateral Relations also focuses heavily on technology and includes “shared commitments to tackle the scourge of anti-Semitism”, the UK’s Foreign Office said.

The department shared a photo of Mr Cleverly walking down a London street with his Israeli guest, and said the pair had signed the deal.

After landing in Britain hours before his talks with Mr Cleverly, the Israeli Foreign Minister hailed the “important visit” and said he planned to discuss ways to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

He was joined by a delegation of FinTech companies that will take part in discussions aimed at bolstering economic links between the UK and Israel.

“Together with the Foreign Secretary, I will sign an agreement strengthening the bilateral relationship with one of Israel’s greatest allies,” Mr Cohen said.

‘Tackle the scourge of anti-Semitism’

The UK has had close relations with Israel since the state’s creation on May 14, 1948.

The road map will largely define how the relationship will play out until the end of the decade.

Mr Cleverly said the deal was a “testament to the strength of our close and historic relationship”.

“As we approach the 75th anniversary of UK-Israel relations, our road map will allow us to fully take advantage of the opportunities in areas of mutual interest, including tech, trade and security,” Mr Cleverly said.

“The UK and Israel also stand together, defiant in the face of the malign influence of Iran in the region and against the wider scourge of anti-Semitism.”

Earlier, the Foreign Office said Mr Cleverly would make clear “the UK’s ongoing support for the Abraham Accords” in his bilateral meeting with Mr Cohen.

The historic Abraham Accords, brokered by Donald Trump’s administration in 2020, established diplomatic relations between Israel and two partners in the Middle East — the UAE and Bahrain.

The treaties have led to a rapid acceleration in trade and co-operation in a wide range of areas, from investment and innovation to food security.

The road map includes £20 million ($24.5 million) of joint-funding commitments on technology and innovation.

Other areas of the UK-Israeli deal include science, research and development, health and climate.

Mr Cleverly and Mr Cohen were expected to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the recent surge in violence across Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Israel and Palestinian officials on Sunday agreed to work towards calming tensions, in talks that stressed the need to prevent any disruption at Jerusalem’s holy sites during Ramadan.

The meeting comes amid fury over the Israeli Finance Minister's comments, in which he denied the existence of the Palestinian people. During a visit to Paris on Sunday, Bezalel Smotrich said: "There are no Palestinians, because there isn't a Palestinian people."

He was quoting French-Israeli Zionist activist Jacques Kupfer, according to a video circulating on social media.

The UAE condemned the comments, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation saying it “rejected the incitement rhetoric and all practices that contradict moral and human values ​​and principles”.

Jordan summoned Israel's ambassador to make clear Amman disapproved of Mr Smotrich's words.

Before his meeting with Mr Cleverly, Mr Cohen headed to the Israeli embassy in South Kensington, London, to take part in a remembrance ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Shlomo Argov.

Mr Argov was serving as Israel's ambassador to the UK when he was badly injured in a terrorist attack in London in 1982. While he survived the assassination attempt, he was left paralysed from the neck down. He died in Jerusalem in 2003.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the UK's Middle East Minister, represented the government at the ceremony.

Updated: March 21, 2023, 3:50 PM