UK arms exports to Israel will continue, Cameron says, bucking left-wing pressure

British foreign secretary says he still has ‘grave concerns’ regarding Gaza humanitarian situation, but London remains committed to supporting Israel’s ability to combat Hamas

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

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron speaks during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, at the State Department in Washington, DC, on April 9, 2024. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)
British Foreign Secretary David Cameron speaks during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, at the State Department in Washington, DC, on April 9, 2024. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

A United Kingdom government assessment of Israel’s prosecution of the war in Gaza determined that London can continue exporting arms to Israel, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said Tuesday.

“The latest assessment leaves our position on export licenses unchanged. This is consistent with the advice that I and other ministers have received. As ever, we will keep the position under review,” Cameron said in a press conference alongside United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington.

The British government has faced growing calls to halt arms sales to Israel, including last week from London mayor Sadiq Khan. The calls were heightened after three British citizens were among the seven killed last week in an Israeli strike on a World Central Kitchen aid convoy in central Gaza.

Last week, three former senior UK judges joined more than 600 members of the British legal profession in calling for the government to halt arms sales to Israel, saying it could make Britain complicit in genocide in Gaza.

Cameron’s comments appear to be the latest rebuff of those demands. “The overall judgment is that those export licenses will remain open and continue,” he said.

Britain supplied 42 million pounds ($53 million) of arms to Israel in 2022.

Israel remains a vital security partner for the UK, Cameron asserted, while saying that London continues to have “grave concerns” regarding the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

A tent camp housing Palestinians displaced by the Israeli offensive is seen in Rafah, Gaza Strip, February 27, 2024. (Hatem Ali/AP)

Cameron said the UK’s policy on the war is four-pronged: supporting the hostages; getting more aid into Gaza; leading on the international stage through initiatives such as last month’s UN Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire and hostage release; and supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas.

The highlighting of the fourth prong appeared notable amid growing calls in the UK and other countries to cut assistance to Israel due to the high death toll in Gaza.

Cameron also called on world powers to plan for the possibility that ongoing hostage talks may not bear fruit and that Israel could move forward with a major ground operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Plan A is for the US, Qatar and Egypt to secure a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas for a temporary pause in the fighting that can be turned into a sustainable ceasefire, during which Hamas leaders are removed from Gaza and terror infrastructure is dismantled. “That is the way to have a political process that brings the war to an end,” Cameron said.

“We have to be aware that if it doesn’t work, we have to think about Plan B — what is it that humanitarian and other organizations can do to make sure that if there is a conflict in Rafah, that people can achieve safety — they can get food, water and medicine,” the top British diplomat said, noting that he would be discussing the matter today in his meeting with Blinken.

Blinken was asked whether Israel has informed the Biden administration of the date on which it plans to launch an invasion of the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel had decided on a date. Hours later, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the US was not briefed on the decision, and Blinken gave the same response on Tuesday.

The Walla news site reported on Tuesday that Gallant informed Austin that Israel hadn’t actually chosen a date for the Rafah operation, indicating that Netanyahu’s announcement had more to do with keeping Hamas’s feet to the fire in the hostage talks or appeasing the premier’s right-wing base that is demanding an invasion of the Gaza’s southern-most city.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: