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UK and Israel to discuss new trade deal as Amnesty releases biased report

What happened: Amnesty International UK released a damning new report accusing Israel of maintaining an “apartheid regime” not only in the West Bank, but inside Israel too.

  • Responding to the report, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said: “In the past, Amnesty was a respected organisation. Not anymore. Today it is precisely the opposite. It isn’t a human rights organisation, but just another radical organisation which echoes propaganda, without serious checking the facts. Instead of seeking the truth, Amnesty echoes the same lies shared by terrorist organisations … Israel isn’t perfect, but we are a democracy committed to international law, open to criticism, with a free press and a strong and independent judicial system.”
  • Arab Minister Esawi Frej, from Meretz, wrote on Twitter: “Israel has many problems that it must solve within the Green Line, as well as in the occupied territories, but Israel is not an apartheid state.”
  • Meanwhile, International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan is visiting Israel to discuss a new UK-Israel trade deal.
  • Secretary Trevelyan will hold talks today with Israel’s Minister of Economy Orna Barbivai.
  • During her three-day visit, the Secretary of State will also meet key Israeli investors in the UK, and visit Tel Aviv’s new light rail metro project to identify opportunities for UK firms to be involved in the project.
  • She will visit the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she will discuss UK and Israeli agri-tech expertise.
  • Noting the benefits of leaving the EU, Secretary Trevelyan said on arrival: “Unlike in the past, we can now work with friends and allies like Israel to strike deals that are truly tailored to our strengths.”
  • The Secretary of State will also travel to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority Minister of National Economy Khalid Osaily and visit the UK-Palestinian Tech Hub to strengthen links between UK and Palestinian tech enterprises.

Context: The Amnesty report appears to be a twisted, one-sided account of a complex conflict.

  • The report damages hope of building peace and advancing a solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
  • For more on the report, read our BICOM briefing from yesterday.
  • The UK is Israel’s third largest trading partner, with £2.7bn worth of British exports to Israel in 2020 and an overall trade relationship worth £4.8bn per year.
  • Last year, Israeli investment into the UK was worth over £200m and secured hundreds of jobs across the UK.
  • The new agreement will focus on complimentary areas of synergy between the two economies, predominantly in the field of tech, including digital services and life sciences.
  • According to the Department for International Trade, “a new trade agreement is part of our commitment to build a stronger relationship with Israel and is a huge opportunity to deepen ties with a fellow democracy and tech superpower so together we can create well-paid, high value jobs in both countries”

Looking ahead: The consultations around a new UK-Israel trade deal is expected to last for the next couple of months.

  • The UK is planning to host a UK-Israel Innovation Summit this spring, which both British and Israeli prime ministers are expected to attend.
  • Regarding Amnesty, there have been calls inside Israel to cancel the tax exemption that the organisation’s Israeli office currently benefits from.
  • Similar anti-Israel reports are anticipated later this year, when the UN’s Human Rights Council presents the results of their Commission of Inquiry.

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