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Bennett pushes for stronger action against Iran in private meetings at COP26 summit

What happened: Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with a range of world leaders on the side-lines of the COP26 conference in Glasgow.

  • He held a series of short meetings with US President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, India, Canada, Australia, and Honduras as well as Prince Charles, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
  • For the first time, the Israeli Prime Minister also met with Bahraini Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
  • In his speech to the conference, Bennett said: “For the first time, Israel is committing to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 and will phase out of the use of coal by 2025. We’re less than a third of the size of Scotland, so our carbon footprint may be small, but our impact on climate change can be mighty … Israel can make a real difference. Israel may be 60 per cent desert, but we’ve managed to make it bloom. We may be in one of the driest places on earth, but we’ve managed to become the world’s number one country in water innovation.”
  • During their meeting Prime Minister Johnson apologised for the embarrassing incident on Monday that prevented wheelchair user Energy Minister Karin Elharrar from entering the conference.
  • Along with climate related issues, Johnson told Prime Minister Bennett that the UK needed to study the COVID-19 vaccination booster shot campaign in Israel. He noted that the booster campaign was still underway in Britain and added that it needed to ‘go with Israeli speed’. They also discussed the ongoing negotiations towards a new trade deal between the two countries.
  • Bennett and Elharrar also met with Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft. They discussed the importance of recruiting the high-tech sector, in the global fight against the climate crisis.

Context: Behind the scenes, in the private meetings between Bennett and world leader the top agenda item was Iran.

  • Prime Minister Bennett has continued to try to persuade word leaders not to re-join the JCPOA nuclear agreement. According to political sources, reported in the Israeli media, Bennett told leaders that “returning to the agreement would be a substantive mistake. The agreement was a terrible idea in 2015, and now all the more so”. Given the significant progress that Iran has made in its nuclear enrichment, the parameters that were established in the 2015 are now irrelevant.
  • Bennett urged the world leaders to ramp up pressure on Iran. He shared Israel’s assessment, with Johnson and other leaders that Iran is deliberately stalling while continuing their enrichment programme.
  • Prime Minister Bennett also warned that sanctions relief would only further empower Iran and their regional proxies.
  • Bennett appealed to the signatories of the nuclear deal (the leaders of E3 – UK, France and Germany) to use their diplomatic weight to pressure Iran at the UN Security Council and with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
  • Israel Innovation Authority and the Israel Innovation Institute’s PLANETech released a new report in October titled “Israel’s State of Climate Tech 2021.” It found that Israel has nearly 1,200 companies working toward solutions to climate challenges, including 637 start-ups and growth companies established in 2000 or later.
  • 235 companies are developing clean energy systems, 212 companies are working on climate-smart agriculture systems, 127 in sustainable mobility and transport, and 45 companies developing alternative proteins.
  • More than 560 private investment entities, mostly foreign venture capital funds, invested a total of $2.97 billion in Israeli climate companies between 2018 and 2020. The Israeli government further invested $280 million in climate start-ups from 2018 to 2020.

Looking ahead:  The Eastern Mediterranean & Middle East Climate Change Initiative (EMME-CCI) which includes Israel and regional partners are due to meet in February to agree a ten-year action plan for regional climate collaboration.

  • In his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bennett accepted an invitation to visit India early in the new year.
  • Bahraini Prime Minister Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa accepted Bennett’s invitation to visit Israel.
  • Bennett and Bill Gates agreed that Israel would establish a working group with the Gates Foundation to focus on climate change innovation.

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