Why Israel is a significant ally of Britain, in 2023
Report by the Pinsker Centre
Two Democracies, Shared Values and Historical Ties
The UK & Israel are two innovative democracies which have a deep and historic partnership. Shared values as democracies have deepened over time and economic and security ties have become fundamental pillars of the relationship. The 1917 Balfour Declaration holds a significant place in Israel’s history. Early Zionist pioneers living in the British Mandate of Palestine and in Europe found support for their vision of a national homeland for the Jewish people. Despite controversies and wars, the British Mandate was a crucial phase in ushering in the establishment of the State of Israel. Much of Israel’s legal, parliamentary and police infrastructure is still built on British models.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, 2022:
“With remarkable frequency it emerges that those who label Israel an apartheid state also deny Israel’s right to exist. It is a claim that stands as an obstacle to peace and the government should be calling it out at the UN and wherever else it is used. “The apartheid claim is not only factually incorrect but quite frankly offensive. Like any nation, Israel is not perfect – but it is a vibrant multi-ethnic democracy with a free press and the rule of law. It stands as a shining beacon of hope in a region of autocracies and religious extremists.”
Defence and Security Cooperation
The UK and Israel enjoy a close strategic partnership, with extensive defence and security cooperation. For both the UK and Israel, this is one of the most important defence and security relationships, encompassing a broad range of activities. Israel and the UK have long worked together to keep their citizens safe from cyber, criminal and terrorist threats. Israeli companies are at the forefront of equipping European nations, including the UK, with cutting-edge defense technology, including systems such as Iron Fist and Trophy that enhance armored vehicle protection. Israeli drones and AI systems are also in demand. The UK’s new Challenger Military Tanks may well include Israeli technology.
Israel and the UK recognise and appreciate the importance of mutual cooperation on cyber security and resilience, with the UK recently elevating Israel to a ‘tier 1’ cyber partner and unlocking the potential for further cooperation.
Israel and the UK are tackling together the military threat posed by the Iranian Regime in Tehran and its terrorist proxies in the Middle East. On a recent visit to Israel, Foreign Secretary Cleverly accused Iran of "enabling terrorism" through its support of the militant groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. "The UK and Israel work closely together to keep our people safe". The Foreign Sec. pledged "to renew our close security partnership, in the face of unacceptable threats from the Iranian regime".
The UK-Israel £7 billion bilateral trading relationship is important to both economies, especially with the UK forging new trade relationships after leaving the European Union. Both sides are intent on expanding this relationship and have signed the precursor of a Free Trade agreement. Bilateral trade in services grew by 73% between 2010 and 2020.
Over the past eight years, Israeli investment into the UK added around £1 billion (NIS 4.5 billion) gross value to the UK economy and has created about 16,000 jobs in Britain. Israel and the UK share am Industrial R&D programme and have signed cooperation agreements on harnessing the benefits of new technology.
A number of UK companies have major operations in Israel, including Unilever, Barclays, GlaxoSmithKline, and Rolls Royce. Rolls-Royce was responsible for the UK’s largest-ever export deal to Israel back in 2016, when it signed a £1 billion agreement to provide Trent 1000 engines for El Al’s new fleet of Dreamliner aircraft.
UK-Israel Tech Hub
The UK-Israel Tech Hub – the first of its kind – epitomises what can be achieved through partnering British businesses with cutting-edge technology from Israel. Since its inception in 2011, the hub has facilitated over 250 partnerships, with an estimated £1.2 billion economic impact to the UK. There are more than 400 Israeli tech firms operating in the UK.
As the ‘start-up nation’, Israel has an international reputation for technological innovation, with over 750 sustainability-related tech companies and is ranked sixth on the Global Cleantech Innovation Index. The UK and Israel have a robust bilateral cooperation on climate innovation to solve the growing challenge of Climate Change.
Israel is a significant partner for Britain’s NHS, supplying 1 in 7 of all medicines and saving the UK taxpayer billions of pounds. During the COVID-19 crisis, public health teams from both countries developed strong working relationships enabling us to share information and strategies. British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly highlighted Israel’s supply of medicine for the UK’s National Health Service and its prominence as a technology hub.
2030 Roadmap For UK-Israel Relations
In November 2021, the British government and the Israeli government signed a Memorandum of Understanding elevating the UK-Israel bilateral relationship to a strategic relationship. This represented a signal of intent to both countries to cohere, deepen and expand cooperation. What is this 2030 Roadmap? According to the British government, it 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.” It includes around £20 million (NIS 88 million) of joint funding commitments on technology and innovation.