Flourishing bilateral links most eloquent answer to Israel boycott calls

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By Matthew Gould Ynetnews.com

Op-ed: UK ambassador to Israel says flourishing bilateral links between two countries are most eloquent answer to Israel boycott calls

It is easy to write a news story about bad news. When the UK and Israel disagree, it creates headlines. But what often fails to make the news is the flourishing bilateral links. As ambassador, I see every day extraordinary cooperation growing between our two nations.

Perhaps the most important cooperation between us is in security. Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague has said, “Britain will never compromise on Israel’s security.” Britain is determined to be a strong security partner for Israel, and in the past few years we have built an impressive partnership.

But beyond this essential security partnership, we have been making a quiet revolution in our bilateral ties on education, science and tech. In each of these fields, the past few years has seen huge progress in creating genuine partnerships that mean we are finally exploiting the huge potential that exists for cooperation between Britain and Israel.

Just this month, our Education Secretary Michael Gove was in Israel to build education collaboration, and to share ideas for educational reform and innovation. There were concrete results from his visit: He signed an English Language Training agreement with Shai Piron for a five-year British Council program to reach over one million children.

Our links are not just growing in schools, but in universities too. When you look behind the predictably negative headlines and take a look at what is actually going on between our academics, you find a proliferation of groundbreaking projects and collaborations between UK and Israeli researchers, and real warmth and friendship between our universities.

Building a better, healthier future

One of the best examples of this is the way that our scientists are working together in the BIRAX Regenerative Medicine Initiative, a multi-million pound fund to bring our top researchers together to find cures for some of the world’s most awful diseases. Whether it is scientists at Hadassah hospital working with their counterparts in Edinburgh on multiple sclerosis, or scientists at Weizmann and Oxford trying together to find a way to stop the immune system from attacking stem cells, this is a program that could make a difference not just to relations between our countries but to humanity.

Science is one of the foundations of the partnership between Britain and Israel, and our scientific links are getting stronger and stronger. This year, we signed a UK/Israel science agreement, agreeing to focus our efforts on some key areas where both our countries are world leaders, like neurology, nanotechnology and water technology.

Technology is another of the foundations of our friendship. In the past few years we have quietly turned Britain into a serious partner for Israel in technology. Two years ago we set up the UK Israel Tech Hub at the British Embassy here. It is now a team of eight people working full time to match amazing Israeli innovation to British companies with global reach. From water tech to pharma and ad tech to Arabic digital content, we are seeing dozens of exciting partnerships. In each partnership, the formula is the same – British companies succeeding globally by integrating Israeli innovation, and Israeli tech going global by partnering with British companies.

Our tech links are being forged in the context of a trade relationship going from strength to strength. The UK is now Israel’s biggest export market in the world, after the US. In 2012 two-way trade and services stood at over $8 billion in 2012, up a massive 34% from the year before.

These flourishing bilateral links between both our countries are the most eloquent answer to those calling for boycotts of Israel. The British government rejects those calls for boycotts. Boycotts divide people. Our collaboration brings people together in education, science and tech.

We have a tremendous story to tell about the cooperation we have built in these past few years. While it might not have the appeal to journalists that a juicy political story might have, I believe our story is just as important.

Our partnership is about building a better, more prosperous, healthier future for both our peoples. Our cooperation means sharing innovation, creating jobs, and achieving more through working together than we could achieve apart. This is the real headline of our relationship.

Matthew Gould is Britain’s ambassador to Israel