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Rights groups condemn government's 10-year trade and defence deal with Israel

RIGHTS groups have condemned Tory ministers for pledging to enter a new 10-year trade and defence deal with Israel, warning the pact will deepen Britain’s complicity in apartheid.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid signed a memorandum of understanding in London today promising to co-operate on issues such as cybersecurity and preventing Iran developing nuclear weapons. 

Following the meeting, the Foreign Office said the ministers discussed forging a “closer alliance on cyber and tech, and will help to ensure that future standards on new technology are shaped by democratic nations.” 

The deal comes despite growing evidence that Israeli spyware has been used to hack the phones of two British lawyers working for Princess Haya, the ex-wife of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed.

The Israeli firm NSO’s technology was recently added to the US’s trade blacklist, with Washington saying the software had “enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression.”

Campaign Against the Arms Trade’s Katie Fallon said it was extremely worrying that the government was choosing to align itself so closely in cyber security with Israel, given its dubious record. 

“The evidence that Israeli spyware has been used against journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers in the UK continues to pile up,” she said. 

“This agreement signals that the government prioritises trade deals to the degree that they are willing to jeopardise the security of people in the UK who are most at risk of illegal surveillance — totally at odds with their stated foreign policy priority to protect and support human rights defenders.”

Campaigners also cited recent reports by international human rights groups accusing Israel of committing the crime of apartheid as reasons why the government should not be deepening ties. 

“It is despicable that Britain is choosing to enter into a pact with Israel while its apartheid regime continues to ramp up its repression of the Palestinian people,” Palestine Solidarity Campaign director Ben Jamal said. 

“At a time where it’s more important than ever to heed the call for divestment from Israel, Britain has chosen to further deepen its complicity with the repressive regime.”

War on War’s senior campaigner for militarism and security Chi-Chi Shi said: “If the UK government observed its duty to uphold human rights and international law, it would end the UK-Israel arms trade. 

“Instead, it is actively enabling grave human rights abuses and Israel’s occupation and apartheid regime against the Palestinian people.”

Announcing the agreement in a joint article in the Telegraph on Monday, Ms Truss and Mr Lapid said the deal amounts to a “a new strategic plan for the next decade spanning cyber, tech, trade and defence.” 

They added that Israel would also have greater access to the British market and embark on discussions for a new trade deal next year. 

 

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