David Cameron has announced millions pounds of investment in further collaborations between the UK and Israel and hailed the tech partnership between the countries as “the strongest of any in the world”.
The new financial commitments were announced as the prime minister flew into Tel Aviv for his first visit to the country since entering Downing Street. Over the coming 36 hours he is expected to address the Knesset and hold talks with the Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres before travelling to Bethlehem to meet Mahmoud Abbas.
While Cameron will push leaders on both sides to take the difficult steps to secure peace – which he has described as a “great prize” – another focus of the visit will be on enhancing the already strong bilateral relationship on tech, innovation and research. He will announce £5 million collaboration between the Technology Strategy Board and the Israeli Industry Centre for R&D to support innovative companies working to bring new tech products and medical devices to market, while £1m in joint funding from the two governments will be unveiled to expand research into new areas regenerative medicine.
Cameron – who is accompanied by leading business figures including the head of the London Stock Exchange – said: “There’s a real opportunity to strengthen our commercial relationship with Israel. Our tech partnership is the strongest of any in the world and we should capitalise on this – creating more jobs back in Britain and delivering economic security for hard-working families.”
It’s also been announced that Israeli medical company Teva will inject £12 million into clinical trials in the UK and £600,000 into research on dementia. Apos Therapy will invest £10m in opening new branches in Bristol and the North East. The PM will set out further UK support to create business opportunities and jobs in the Palestinian territories including grants for 90 companies to target foreign investors and £1.5million for skills training for 1,000 refugee women in Gaza.
Turning his attention to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian talks, Cameron said: “Secretary Kerry’s efforts to secure agreement on a negotiating framework that could lead to peace are entering a critical phase. And I’ll be using my visit to support those peace efforts. I want to encourage Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to build on the strong leadership they have shown so far and to take the final difficult steps towards peace.
“The prize could be great: a stable, prosperous Middle East with a sovereign and viable Palestinian State living in peace alongside a secure Israel at the heart of it. A secure future. A prosperous future. That’s what we should all set our sights on.” The Prime Minister will also be accompanied by five members of his Holocaust Commission – including chair Mick Davis, survivor Ben Helfgott and broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky – will use the visit to gather evidence of innovative Holocaust commemoration and education in Israel.
Speaking to reporters in his flight to Tel Aviv, Mr Cameron said: “I think Britain is a very strong friend of Israel and I am a staunch defender and supporter of Israel. I have always made that clear.”