Ed Balls unveils plans for UK-Israel 'economic dialogue'

An incoming Labour government will learn from the Israeli hi-tech success story and consolidate the UK-Israel trade relationship, according to Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls.

Speaking at the Labour Friends of Israel annual lunch on Tuesday, Mr Balls announced the launch of a UK-Israel economic dialogue. This will enable the UK to learn from Israel in the area of the modern digital economy, venture capital, research and development and universities.

Mr Balls said: “I want to dig deeper into the nature of our bilateral relationship and also understand how Israel has succeeded so impressively in building a modern digital economy."

Israel’s economy grew by 4.7 per cent last year while the UK drifted back into recession. Despite the boycott movement, the UK is Israel’s second biggest export market after the US and more than 250 Israeli companies are based in Britain. Mr Balls insisted that the strong links between business and the Israeli state were a model for Britain to follow.

The dialogue initiative is backed by LFI and longstanding Labour supporter, Sir Trevor Chinn. It also has the backing of Israeli ambassador Daniel Taub and his British opposite number Matthew Gould. Senior shadow cabinet members, including Work and Pensions spokesman Liam Byrne and shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna will be working on the project. A delegation to Israel is planned for the autumn.

Ed Miliband’s leadership has seen a shift in Labour policy on Israel, with the party last year backing the Palestinian bid for recognition of statehood at the United Nations.

Mr Balls used the LFI lunch to reiterate Labour’s support for Israel, warned of the threat posed by Iran and urged vigilance with the election of a Muslim Brotherhood president in Egypt. “It is important that we say loud and clear — we understand that Israel feels threatened, but Israel is not isolated, you are not alone.”

The shadow chancellor also distanced himself from those within the Labour Party and the trade union movement campiagning for a boycott of Israel.

“We will resist those in our country who — thorugh words and boycotts — seek to isolate Israel and who, in so doing, set back prospects for peace and a two state solution.”

Last updated: 12:38pm, July 5 2012