Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, formerly of the Technion in Haifa, met with British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Thursday. The two discussed opportunities for research and academic cooperation between Britain and Israel. The two met at the home of British ambassador Matthew Gould, where the ten winners of the prestigious Britain-Israel Research and Academic Exchange (BIRAX) grants for environment and alternative energy research were announced.
During the meeting, Hershkowitz told Hague that “calls for a British academic boycott [of Israel] harm, first and foremost, British scientists and Britain itself." Professor Hershkowitz explained that the whole world courts Israel for cooperation in scientific research. Hague responded that there was no argument on the matter, and Hershkowitz noted that he does not see a peace treaty between Israel and the Arabs anytime soon.
“An agreement on scientific cooperation with Britain, as well as similar agreements with other countries, is further evidence of Israel's status as a world power of science,” said Hershkowitz. “I attribute great importance to international scientific cooperation in general, and cooperation with Britain in particular. The language of science is the language that bridges differences and gaps between nations and companies around the world and cooperation between Israel and Britain will promote not only these two countries, but the whole world.”
Earlier on Thursday, Hague met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that the meeting was “productive” and added: “The two... discussed a broad range of common issues, including the efforts to advance the diplomatic process in the region. Israel and Great Britain maintain very close ties on strategic issues, especially Iran. It was agreed that another official meeting will be held soon in Israel.”
During the meeting Hague told Netanyahu that Britain would act fast to amend the universal jurisdiction law on the UK books that puts visiting Israeli officials at risk of arrest for alleged war crimes. Israel has suspended its yearly bilateral talks with Britain as a result of this law. A spokesperson for the British embassy told AFP that “Hague reiterated the government's firm commitment to move as fast as it can on this matter.”
Hague and Netanyahu also discussed Iran's nuclear program as well as prospects for renewing the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority which have reached an impasse.
Also on Thursday, Hague met one-on-one with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The contents of that meeting were not disclosed.
On Wednesday, Hague had met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. During this meeting, as he did with Netanyahu, Hague reiterated the British government’s commitment to urgently resolve the “unacceptable situation”, as he called it, with regard to “universal jurisdiction.” The two also discussed the need to get beyond the current impasse in the peace talks, and also discussed shared concerns including the threat posed by Iran’s attempts to obtain nuclear weapons capability and the need for international cooperation against terrorism.