Britain and Israel will sign a 10-year trade and defence pact in London on Monday, promising cooperation on issues such as cybersecurity and a joint commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
The agreement was announced by Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, and her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid, despite evidence that spyware made by Israeli company NSO Group had probably been used to spy on two British lawyers advising the ex-wife of the ruler of Dubai, Princess Haya.
In a joint article in the Daily Telegraph, Truss and Lapid said the agreement amounted to “a new strategic plan for the next decade spanning cyber, tech, trade and defence,” while the two countries would “work night and day to prevent the Iranian regime from ever becoming a nuclear power”.
The ministers added that the two countries would “work closer” to defend themselves in cyberspace, while Israel would become a tier one cyber partner for the UK and have greater access to the British market. “Our partnership will keep us at the forefront of the technological revolution,” Truss and Lapid added.
Just over a week ago, Priti Patel, the home secretary, announced that the UK would proscribe the political wing of Palestinian political group Hamas, bringing the UK in line with the US and the EU. “Hamas is fundamentally and rabidly antisemitic,” Patel said in a speech she gave in Washington DC.
But it comes after a British court ruled that NSO’s Pegasus spyware had been used against divorce lawyer Lady Shackleton, and an associate, at a time when they were advising Princess Haya in a child protection battle being played out in the UK.
British complaints at the time were relatively muted, although sources close to the company said it had altered its software to prevent +44 UK numbers from being spied on again. NSO technology has since been put on a US blacklist, citing use of the company’s software by regimes around the world for “transnational repression”.
Meanwhile, talks with Iran on salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal restart on Monday in Vienna after a five-month break, although there is little hope of a breakthrough that would allow the US to rejoin the agreement given Tehran’s negotiating demands.
Nevertheless, in the joint statement by the foreign ministers, Britain seeks to reassure Israel that it will remain vigilant on the issue. “We will also work night and day to prevent the Iranian regime from ever becoming a nuclear power. The clock is ticking, which heightens the need for close cooperation with our partners and friends to thwart Tehran’s ambitions,” Truss and Lapid said.