In London, FM Cohen signs agreement laying out future of UK-Israel ties

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Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly signed an agreement in London on Tuesday setting out the agenda for bilateral economic, security and technological ties.

According to the UK Foreign Office, the 2030 Action Plan for UK-Israel Bilateral Relations contains detailed commitments “to deepen cooperation across the Israel-UK relationship, including trade, cyber, science and technology, research and development, security, health. , climate and gender.”

According to the roadmap, there will be a particular focus on technological innovation, with around 20 million British pounds ($24.5 million) of co-financing promised in the agreement.

London, which will chair the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in 2024, also pledged in the agreement to work closely with Israel to combat anti-Semitism.

“On trade, technology and security, both countries are taking full advantage of these opportunities,” Cleverly said on Twitter after the meeting.

The process of setting out the nature of the bilateral relationship began in November 2021, almost two years after the UK left the European Union. The then foreign minister Yair Lapid signed a memorandum of understanding with his then British counterpart, Liz Truss, saying the agreement would lead to a free trade agreement, increased security cooperation and the joint development of high-tech projects.

The agreement was meant to be signed during Cleverly’s planned trip to Israel last month, but that visit was postponed indefinitely due to scheduling issues. Since then, the British have been looking for the earliest opportunity to sign the agreement. Cohen’s one-day visit fit the bill.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (L) signs the Roadmap 2030 Agreement with UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly in London, March 21, 2023. (Stuart MIitchell)

Also last month, Cleverly wrote in a letter that the British government has no intention of working with far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir. But he also wrote that the UK looked forward to working with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to “strengthen our excellent bilateral ties.”

According to the Israeli readout of their meeting, Cohen and Cleverly spoke at length about the Iranian threat and agreed that if Iran continues to enrich uranium to levels prohibited by its broken agreement with world powers, the international community to ensure that there will be serious consequences. Tehran is only allowed to enrich to 3.67%, but uranium enriched to nearly 84%, near weapons grade, has recently been found.

“Israel and the UK agree that Iran cannot be allowed to achieve a nuclear weapon,” Cohen said after the meeting.

On Monday, the United Kingdom announced sanctions on five members of the Board of Directors of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Foundation responsible for managing the IRGC’s investments. It also imposed sanctions on two senior IRGC commanders.

The UK — a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council — is part of the so-called E3, the European powers that are parties to the 2015 nuclear deal, along with the US, Russia and China. The agreement fell apart after the US withdrew in 2018 under former president Donald Trump, and negotiations to revive it have since stalled.

Netanyahu will fly to London on Thursday for a weekend visit that will include a meeting with British prime minister Rishi Sunak.

During his visit, Cohen also tried to forge new links between Israeli financial technology companies and the British banking sector.

He visited Visa’s European headquarters and talked about opportunities in the Israeli market. He also held an event with British banking executives and Israeli financial technology leaders from OurCrowd, Data Harbour, Next Dim, Surf Security, Jifity, and Open Finance.

Warsaw Pact

Cohen is due to fly to Warsaw on Tuesday night, and will meet with Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau on Wednesday to finalize an agreement to end disagreements over content and security protocol for youth Holocaust study tours to to Poland for Israeli students.

Participants in the March for the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, as Israel marks the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, on May 1, 2019. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

The countries have been locked in conflict during the tours for several years. The Foreign Ministry previously said the Polish government wanted to control the Holocaust studies curriculum taught to Israeli students.

The agreement was concluded last Thursday after a delegation led by the Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ronen Levi flew to Warsaw to meet their Polish counterparts. The group included officials from the foreign and education ministries, and the Shin Bet security agency.

News of the agreement emerged in early March. Netanyahu praised the agreement, saying “the lessons of the Holocaust can be learned in many ways, but there is nothing better than seeing it for yourself.”

The Polish government is making ongoing efforts to minimize Poland’s responsibility for the persecution of Jews on its territory during the Holocaust, and scholars say that Poles had significant cooperation with the Nazi regime.

Polish President Andrzej Duda listens to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, Aug. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko, File)

Young Jewish Israelis typically travel to Poland in the summer between 11th and 12th grade, visiting former Nazi camps to learn about the Holocaust and remember those who were murdered. The trip has long been considered a rite of passage in Israeli education and, before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 40,000 Israeli students participated each year.

The two allies have for some time been in a diplomatic spat since July 2021 over the Polish legislature passing a law that cuts off any future restitution to the heirs of property seized by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Israel recalled its envoy to Warsaw for consultations the following month. Lapid advised the Polish ambassador to Israel to stay on vacation in his home country, and ordered the new Israeli ambassador to Poland, Ya’acov Livne, to stay in Israel.

Since then, both sides have slowly de-escalated tensions over the issue. Livne took up his post in Warsaw in February 2022 to coordinate Israel’s efforts to remove citizens from Ukraine and provide aid to Kyiv. Two Polish lawmakers visited the Knesset in June, the first to do so since 2017.

Despite promises in July from Polish President Andrzej Duda to return his envoy to Israel, it has yet to be done.

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