What happened: Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen visited London yesterday and alongside Foreign Secretary James Cleverly they signed, “the 2030 Roadmap for Israel-UK Bilateral Relations.”
- According to the UK government, “the Roadmap contains detailed commitments for deepening cooperation across the breadth of the Israel-UK relationship, including on trade, cyber, science and tech, research and development, security, health, climate and gender.”
- The agreement also includes around £20millon of joint funding commitments on technology and innovation.
- The UK also “committed to working closely with Israel to tackle the scourge of antisemitism. As chair for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in 2024, the UK will promote fact-based knowledge of the Holocaust and strengthen media and information literacy.”
- Ahead of the visit Foreign Secretary Cleverly said, “The UK-Israel relationship has already delivered huge benefits to both economies. Our trade relationship is worth around £7 billion, and there are more than 400 Israeli tech firms operating in the UK. Israeli investment into the UK drives growth and jobs, adding around £1 billion gross value to the UK economy and creating about 16,000 jobs in the last 8 years.”
- In their private meeting the pair discussed the dual threats of Iran’s nuclear programme and their destabilising regional aggression. According to the UK government, “On Iran, the Foreign Ministers discussed deepening our security and defence co-operation to counter the threat posed by the regime.”
- Ahead of Ramadan, and regarding Jerusalem, “the Foreign Ministers agreed on the importance of upholding the historic Status Quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem.”
- Regarding Russia, Cleverly “stressed the importance of accelerating efforts to ensure Ukraine wins this war and secures a lasting peace.”
- Minister Cohen said, “the international community must unite against the Iranian threat, increase sanctions, and present a viable military threat.”
- Cohen also participated in a memorial ceremony alongside Lord Tariq Ahmed, the Minister for Middle East Affairs to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of the late Ambassador Shlomo Argov. He was seriously injured in a terrorist attack while serving as Israel’s ambassador to the UK in 1982.
Context: The genesis of the roadmap was in November 2021 when Foreign Minister Lapid visited London and met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Minister Liz Truss.
- At the time Foreign Ministers Lapid and Truss co-wrote an op-ed in The Telegraph where they declared that Israel and the UK would sign a major new agreement, “transforming our close friendship into an even closer partnership by formally agreeing a new strategic plan for the next decade spanning cyber, tech, trade and defence”. In addition, “Israel will officially become a Tier One cyber partner for the UK, recognising how much more we can achieve together as tech leaders with world-class cybersecurity expertise.”
- With regard to Iran, the pair wrote: “We will also work night and day to prevent the Iranian regime from ever becoming a nuclear power. The clock is ticking, which heightens the need for close cooperation with our partners and friends to thwart Tehran’s ambitions.”
- Israel and the UK had already planned to host reciprocal prime ministerial visits to mark Israel’s 75th anniversary. Prime Minister Netanyahu is also due to visit London and meet Prime Minister Sunak this week.
- Netanyahu’s visit to London will complete a series of European capitals having visited Paris, Berlin and Italy in the last month, with the Iranian threat being his top priority.
- In parallel to the visit the UK yesterday announced sanctions on seven senior officials of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Five responsible for managing the IRGC’s investments and two senior commanders.
- The UK government confirmed it has “sanctions in place on the IRGC in its entirety. Since October, the UK has imposed new sanctions on more than a dozen senior IRGC officials under our Iran human rights regime, most recently on a number of senior commanders on 20 February.”
- Foreign Secretary Cleverly explained, they were “responsible for funding militant groups associated with the IRGC’s external operations arm, the IRGC-Quds Force. The Quds force is responsible for carrying out lethal activities outside of Iran by, for example, providing training, funding and weapons to groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. It has been accused of setting up fake companies in Syria to support the development of Quds Force activities in Syria.”
Looking ahead: In light of the domestic turbulence, it is expected that Netanyahu will be greeted by protestors against the judicial reform.
- In the months ahead Prime Minister Sunak it is anticipated to make a reciprocal visit to Israel.
- Later this year Israel and the UK are expected to conclude a new upgraded free trade agreement, focus on tech and innovation. Cleverly said yesterday, “The new trade deal, by lowering barriers and championing free trade, is a key priority for both governments.”