Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to 10 Downing Street today, where the two leaders, meeting for the first time, discussed trade and bilateral ties, the Balfour Declaration centenary, Iran and regional developments.
The two leaders agreed to establish a new UK-Israel Trade Working Group to strengthen the bilateral trade and investment relationship, and “to prepare the ground for a post-Brexit trade agreement”.
The Israeli Prime Minister also met with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, where they sat alongside the desk on which the Balfour Declaration was composed in 1917.
Speaking in No 10 alongside Prime Minister Netanyahu, Prime Minister May said: “Prime Minister, I’m very pleased to welcome you here to No 10 Downing Street and particularly in the year in which we recognise the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration”. Following the meeting, a Downing Street spokesperson confirmed that Prime Minister May “invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to attend events taking place in the UK to mark the anniversary in November, as a Guest of Government”, and that he also invited her to visit him in Israel.
Prime Minister May underlined that “the UK remains a very strong and close friend of Israel”, emphasising that while there was already extensive cooperation in areas including science, trade and security, “there is much more that we can do together looking to the future”.
Prime Minister May also said that regional issues including Syria and Iran would be on the agenda for discussion. Reiterating the UK’s support of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, Prime Minister May said: “We remain committed to a two-state solution as the best way of building stability and peace for the future”.
In his opening remarks, Prime Minister Netanyahu said the warm welcome from Prime Minister May “reflects the strength of the partnership between Israel and Britain”. He said the cooperation between the two countries in trade, technology and security, makes Britons and Israelis “more prosperous” and “safer”.
Speaking of the “very strong bond” between the UK and Israel, the Israeli Prime Minister told Prime Minister May that he has a photo of Winston Churchill on his desk. Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “All the people of Israel share with me the congratulations we offer Queen Elizabeth today on her 65th anniversary of ascension to the throne”.
Prime Minister Netanyahu also warned that Iran “seeks to annihilate Israel” and called on nations to back renewed sanctions against the Iranian regime.
Watch the video below to see Prime Minister Theresa May and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opening remarks in No 10.
Following the meeting between the two leaders, a Downing Street spokesperson said that the Prime Ministers agreed to establish a new UK-Israel Trade Working Group “to continue the progress we have seen in our burgeoning trade and investment relationship, and to prepare the ground for a post-Brexit trade agreement”.
The statement added that Minister for Trade Policy, Lord Price CVO, “will visit Israel soon to take this forward”. The statement said that the two leaders “also discussed opportunities to increase investment in research and development and technology, and strengthen partnerships in these areas between our governments, universities and businesses”.
The Downing Street spokesperson further said: “In their discussions, the Prime Ministers committed to working together to build on our longstanding relationship and the strong ties that already exist between our two countries in a wide range of areas, from trade and investment, to innovation and technology, and defence and security”. The statement added: “They talked about the important work we do together on intelligence-sharing and cyber-security, and committed to talk further about how we can deepen this cooperation, to help keep our people safe”.
On Iran, the spokesperson said that “the Prime Minister was clear that the nuclear deal is vital and must be properly enforced and policed, while recognising concerns about Iran’s pattern of destabilising activity in the region”.
The statement said the two leaders “also talked about the Middle East Peace Process and the UK’s firm commitment to a two-state solution as the best way to bring stability and peace to the region. The Prime Minister reiterated the UK’s opposition to settlement activity”.
Addressing the Balfour Declaration centenary, the statement said that Prime Minister May “invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to attend events taking place in the UK to mark the anniversary in November, as a Guest of Government” and that Prime Minister Netanyahu “also invited her to visit him in Israel”.
Commenting on his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Foreign Secretary Johnson said: “We discussed the big issues facing both our countries and how to secure a lasting peace in the Middle East”.
Coinciding with the visit, CFI Parliamentary Chairman Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP hailed the UK-Israel partnership and the shared values between the two countries in an article published in ConservativeHome. Click here to read Sir Eric’s article.