Britain still allowing arms exports to Israel

The UK business secretary had threatened to suspend licenses if hostilities between Hamas, Israel resumed

Illustrative: A convoy of IDF tanks park at a deployment area near the border with the Gaza Strip on August 2, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: A convoy of IDF tanks park at a deployment area near the border with the Gaza Strip on August 2, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

UK companies are still being allowed to export arms and weapons components to Israel, despite Britain’s announcement last week that it would suspend export licenses in the event of a resumption of hostilities, a UK government spokesperson said Wednesday.

“We said we would suspend licenses if there was a significant resumption of hostilities,” the spokesperson said. “We are closely monitoring the situation. Our assessment so far is that the resumption of hostilities has been limited.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable, of the minority Liberal-Democrat coalition party, said on August 13 that if hostilities resumed after the 72-hour truce in place at the time, London would cancel 12 arms export licenses to Israel, covering components for radar systems, combat aircraft and tanks, according to a statement from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

While the UK’s government has largely been supportive of Israel in public statements, Cable’s announcement came after massive protests in the UK against Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip as well as pressure from numerous politicians and activists to institute a full arms embargo on Israel regardless of whether the fighting resumed.

Britain has also seen an apparent uptick in anti-Semitism during the fighting in Gaza as well as demands that UK stores stop stocking Israeli products.

“It is a very weak position and it will be seen as a sign of political support for the Israeli government,” Andrew Smith, from Campaign Against Arms Trade, told Huffington Post UK.

A spokesperson from Cable’s Liberal Democrat party told the BBC that the faction wanted a complete embargo on arms to Israel, but had to negotiate with the main governing Conservative party.

The move came two weeks after Foreign Office minister Sayeeda Warsi quit her post to protest British policy vis-a-vis Israel. She called Britain’s arms sales to Israel “morally indefensible.”

The issue of export licenses has proved a major point of contention between Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond, against Cable and Liberal Democrat head Nick Clegg, according to The Guardian.

Nearly NIS 250 million in export licenses for military equipment have been granted to British firms since 2010, according to the Guardian.

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