As Biden arrives, US, Israel announce plan for deeper technology cooperation

Inter-agency collaborative will meet annually and be led by respective national security councils, creating tech partnerships to address pandemics, climate change, AI

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Illustrative: Israeli and American flags are visible on the table as US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin hosts a bilateral meeting with Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Pentagon in Washington on June 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Illustrative: Israeli and American flags are visible on the table as US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin hosts a bilateral meeting with Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Pentagon in Washington on June 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Israel and the United States on Wednesday announced the establishment of a bilateral committee to promote technology cooperation, hours before US President Joe Biden landed in Israel on his first Mideast trip as president.

The Strategic High-Level Dialogue on Technology will be tasked with presenting solutions to global challenges such as pandemic preparedness, climate change, implementation of artificial intelligence and ensuring trusted technology ecosystems, according to a joint statement issued by the White House.

The collaborative will be led by the respective national security councils and include representatives from various agencies in both countries. The bilateral committee will convene annually, alternating between the US and Israel. The first session will take place in Israel this fall.

The two countries have already signed several bilateral agreements in the field of technology, but this latest announcement comes against the backdrop of increasing US pressure on Israel to limit its technological cooperation with China.

Amid a US-China trade war that has ebbed and flowed in recent years under both the Trump and Biden administrations, China has shown interest in Israeli innovations, especially in medical tech, robotics, food tech and artificial intelligence.

Washington’s main concerns lie in potential dual-usage technologies — those that have both civilian and military applications. At the same time, Israel has regulations in place to prevent the sale of sensitive military-related technology to China (and other countries), following a 1990s deal in which Israel had to scrap the sale of advanced airborne radar systems to China amid fierce US opposition.

The joint statement on the collaborative from Biden and Prime Minister Yair Lapid said, “We pledge to boost our mutual innovation ecosystems, to deepen bilateral engagements, advance and protect critical and emerging technologies in accordance with our national interests, democratic principles and human rights, and to address geostrategic challenges.”

Left: US President Joe Biden speaks at a change of command ceremony at US Coast Guard headquarters, June 1, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Right: Prime Minister Yaïr Lapid makes a statement following his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee palace in Paris, on July 5, 2022. (Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

The emphasis on human rights appeared noteworthy, given the Biden administration’s decision to blacklist Israeli spyware firm NSO Group last year over the reported sale of its technologies to authoritarian regimes who used them to target activists, political dissidents and journalists.

Israel has since reportedly sought to lobby the Biden administration to withdraw the designation, to no avail.

Lapid and Biden in the statement also affirmed their “commitment to expanding our cooperation to further areas, and beginning an exchange program in quantum information science.”

The strategic dialogue is one part of the “Jerusalem Declaration on the US-Israel Strategic Partnership” that the two sides will announce on Thursday after the meeting between Lapid and Biden, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said.

“It is a platform for cooperation in the coming years,” said a senior Israeli official who briefed reporters on Tuesday, adding that it is a “strong expression of the vitality and indispensability of the relations between Israel and the US.”

The document addresses the Iranian nuclear program, committing both countries to “use all elements of national power” to stop Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon. It also stresses the unbreakable US commitment to Israel’s security and qualitative military edge.

This too raised questions from reporters regarding the need for another declaration emphasizing the close ties between the two countries, but the senior Israeli official insisted that the communique would elevate ties to a new level.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report

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