image Photo: Haim Zach (GPO)

Bennett meets world leaders in Glasgow

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has used the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) to hold historic talks on a wide range of topics.

By Erin Viner

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres welcomed the Israeli leader during the opening ceremony in Glasgow. The United Kingdom is hosting this year’s event.

Soon after his arrival in Scotland, Prime Minister Bennett held talks with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Bennett expressed gratitude for Australia’s long-standing support of Israel in the international arena, and as well as his wish to enhance and upgrade between Jerusalem and Canberra, particularly regarding climate innovation.

The two leaders also discussed the Iranian nuclear threat, and Prime Minister Bennett asked the Australian Premier to work toward the strong condemnation of Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors meeting slated to be held later this month.

The Prime Minister also requested that Canberra officially designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. To date, Australia has classified only the military wing of the Lebanon-based, Iran-backed group as a terrorist body. The matter is currently on Morrison’s agenda, after the bipartisan Australian Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security called on the government in June to brand the entire Hezbollah organization as a terrorist entity. The recommendation also called for Australia to blacklist the political wing of the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza.

On a cordial note, Prime Minister Bennett invited Australian Prime Minister Morrison and his wife to make an official visit to Israel.

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, National Security Adviser and Director of the National Security Council Dr. Eyal Hulata and the Prime Minister’s Diplomatic Adviser Shimrit Meir also attended the meeting.

Prime Minister Bennett also held his first meeting since taking office with French President Emmanuel Macron.

During “a good and warm private meeting,” discussion on global and regional challenges facing their nations focused on “Iran’s rapid progress in enriching uranium,” according to a statement TV7 obtained from the Prime Minister’s Media Advisor.

The two leaders also agreed to handle the alleged misuse of spyware developed by an Israeli company “discreetly and professionally, and with the spirit of transparency between the two sides,” said an Israeli official speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity. Several international media organizations claimed last July that Pegasus software developed by the NSO Group for use only by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime had instead been used to hack smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists and government officials in several countries – including Macron. The Israeli firm denied the reports as “full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories.” Israel’s Defense Ministry oversees the export of all offensive cyber tools such as Pegasus.

During a later meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bennett thanked him for “restarting” the “deep relationship between two unique civilizations.”

“I know it comes from your heart. It’s not about interests; it’s about a deep conviction that you harbor and we feel it. On behalf of all Israeli citizens, we deeply appreciate this whole new approach that will go down in history as something that you brought about. So, thank you,” said Bennett.

Referring to his background as a software entrepreneur and self-made millionaire prior to entering politics in 2006, Bennett reflected, “Indeed, my personal experience, to a great degree, shaped my feelings. As you recall, when I ran a hi-tech company, we merged with an Indian company – the two ‘I’s, India and Israel in Manhattan. In the office, there were a bunch of Israelis and Indians, and getting together created a remarkable dynamic of innovation. There’s so much that we can learn from you. “

“This is indeed what we seek to do,” he said, adding, “Our goal is to continue the wonderful path that you placed with my predecessor, and bring it to a whole new level, so we can ensure that our two nations work together on innovation, technology, space, security, agriculture, food technologies, and of course climate-related technologies.”

The Israeli leader also took the opportunity to wish his counterpart and the people of India greetings for the Diwali holiday.

Bennett also made history in Scotland by becoming the first Israeli Prime Minister to personally meet with Bahraini Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

Other leaders with whom Bennett spoke on the sidelines of the COP26 included Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and a short meeting with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández.