‘Golden era’ for UK trade with Israel


Business Secretary Sajid Javid hailed a "golden era" of business ties between the UK and Israel this week.

Mr Javid told an audience about his delight at ongoing bilateral collaboration in science, high-tech and cyber security. He said 300 Israeli companies in the UK created "thousands" of jobs and acknowledged that British businesses, including Barclays and Rolls Royce, had invested over £1bn in Israel.

The Bromsgrove MP said: "The past few years have been a golden era - what really excites me are the possibilities for the years that lie ahead."

He added: "Over the past 67 years, Israel has made business boom in the barren desert. It is one of the many reasons I have long admired the country."

Mr Javid went on to condemn a NUS motion passed last week, which put forward a boycott of Israel - but not Islamic State.

He said the move "speaks volumes", adding: "Let me be very clear. I don't believe in boycotts. Nor, I'm proud to say, does my party, my prime minister, or for the most part, my country."

His message was echoed by retail magnate Sir Harry Solomon, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the event at London's Millennium Hotel.

Sir Harry described the BDS movement as: "Insidious, sophisticated and well-oiled."

This week, a delegation of leading British retailers met Israeli tech start-ups in a bid to forge ties.

Speaking from Israel, David Sharp, the head of Ocado Technology, the world's largest online food retailer, said he was not deterred by BDS pressure. He said: "I don't think that should be a barrier to getting involved with Israel. We need to be able to source the best technology from wherever it is."

He added: "We need a new technology injection - where better to go than the Israeli start-up scene, where we have seen lots of innovation going on."

Commenting on Orange's move to pull out of Israel, Luke Akehurst, director of We Believe in Israel, said: "My concern is that this major company thinks it can say one thing to an Arab audience in Cairo and then backtrack when Israel gets to hear what was said.

"It isn't that people think Orange's CEO supports BDS ideologically, it's that he is afraid of the pressure he is getting both from BDS campaigners and from Arab markets his company operates in.

"The best thing consumers can do is let Orange's UK joint venture EE know that if they bow to BDS pressure, they will lose pro-Israel customers."

Simon Johnson, Jewish Leadership's Council chief executive, said: "Mr Richard now claims he was misunderstood, though his comments in Cairo about wanting Orange out of Israel sounded clear enough."

● Guards ejected anti-Israel activists from security firm G4S's annual meeting in London last week. The activists were protesting against the company's activities in Israel.

V See Guest List, p48

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