UK opens files on Israeli arms sales to Argentina during Falklands War

Newly declassified papers show London was aware of alleged deals providing weapons to its enemy during 1982 conflict

An Argentine Air Force historical photo of the IV Air Brigade A-4C Skyhawk 'C-313' during the Falklands War. (photo credit: public domain)
An Argentine Air Force historical photo of the IV Air Brigade A-4C Skyhawk 'C-313' during the Falklands War. (photo credit: public domain)

Newly declassified British documents have provided details on reported Israeli arms sales to Argentina before and during the United Kingdom’s war with Great Britain over the Falkland Islands in 1982.

A report by the Telegraph said the Jewish state had provided Buenos Aires with Skyhawk fighter jets which were used during the conflict to sink four British warships, killing dozens of soldiers.

The documents quoted by the paper also noted that arm sales continued well after the war ended, with Israel maintaining they were necessary to support its domestic arms industry.

Israel’s clandestine weapons sales to Argentina’s military dictatorship during the conflict were reported upon in a 2011 book by Argentinian journalist Hernan Dobry. The new documents indicated that London was well aware of the transactions.

A Foreign Office official wrote in one declassified memo that though the UK government had requested Jerusalem refrain from such deals after the war, “I do not believe the Israelis are to be moved on this issue.

“This is not satisfactory, but Israeli interests in Argentina will outweigh any readiness they might otherwise feel to be helpful to us,” the official said.

In his book, “Operation Israel: The Rearming of Argentina During The Dictatorship,” Dobry theorized that Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin agreed to help Argentina during the Falklands War as revenge for Britain’s crackdown on the Jewish Irgun during the British mandate of Palestine.

The book explains how Israel secretly supplied arms and equipment to Argentina via Peru.

According to the book, Begin authorized the deal by saying, “Is this going to be used to kill the English? Kadima (go ahead). Dov from up there is going to be happy with the decision.”

Dov Gruner was a close friend of Begin who was captured and hanged by the British in April 1947.

“Obviously, it must be all done perfectly,” the Israeli prime minister reportedly added.

The testimony was provided by Israel Lotersztain, a salesman for Isrex, an Israeli defense company in Argentina.

“What Israel did was all within legal channels, but was a support to Argentina during the Falklands War that was only shown by a few countries in the world, such as Libya and Peru,” Dobry told JTA.

Israel armed Argentina’s military dictatorship with air-to-air missiles, fuel tanks for fighter bombers, gas masks and missile radar alert systems, as well as warm dubon parka jackets, according to the book.

“If the United States hadn’t turned a blind eye, it would have been impossible for Israel to send such a large amount of weapons,” Dobry told JTA. “Many components were American, and there is a law that prohibits the sale of any military component to third parties without the authorization of the White House.”

Britain retook the Falkland Islands, called the Islas Malvinas in Argentina, in June 1982, less than three months after Argentina tried to recover the islands. More than 250 British and 650 Argentines were killed in the battle.

JTA contributed to this report.

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