update deskIsrael at War

UK to continue arms exports to Israel

"The latest assessment leaves our position on export licenses unchanged," said Foreign Secretary David Cameron.

U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Jan. 24, 2024. Credit: The Prime Minister's Office.
U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Jan. 24, 2024. Credit: The Prime Minister's Office.

A U.K. government assessment of Israel’s actions during the war against Hamas in Gaza has determined that London can continue exporting arms to Israel, Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on Tuesday.

“The latest assessment leaves our position on export licenses unchanged,” Cameron said at a Washington press conference, speaking alongside U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “This is consistent with the advice that I and other ministers have received.”

“As ever, we will keep the position under review,” added the top diplomat.

Cameron’s statements came amid calls from British politicians and public servants to suspend the sale of arms to Israel, with some claiming that Israel was committing genocide in the Gaza Strip. 

MP Zarah Sultana, a far-left member of the Labor Party, coordinated a letter signed by 130 parliamentarians who requested that the United Kingdom halt arms exports. The letter was signed by 107 MPs and 27 peers. British defense exports to Israel totaled £42 million ($53 million) in 2022, according to Defense Secretary Grant Shapps.

Among those who commented on the letter was Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden who, during a TV interview with the BBC, said that London would stop supplying arms if Israel was found to be in breach of international law.

“We hold the country to whom we export arms to high standards, and that is what you’d expect,” said Dowden. While he admitted Israel was “conducting a legitimate war in very difficult circumstances,” he also said that the Jewish state had made “mistakes.”

Dowden said that the United Kingdom is required under domestic laws to “periodically review compliance with arms exports, and that happens with all nations.”

Dowden added that “the process involves the Foreign Secretary advising the Business Secretary with regard to whether we can continue those exports, and for now, the Foreign Secretary’s advice in respect to that has not changed.”

Former U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson spoke out in an April 5 Daily Mail op-ed, writing, “The contagion has spread pretty wide, and very fast. The proposed embargo is now supported by MPs on all sides, by the former head of MI6, by some former Supreme Court Justices, and by about 600 members of the legal profession, all of them clamoring for us to turn our backs on the only democracy in the Middle East.”

Johnson wrote that, should such a ban be put in place, it would likely cripple Israel and eventually lead to a Hamas victory.

“If we ban the sale of arms ourselves, it surely follows that we do not think any self-respecting country should be arming the Israelis…We are willing the military defeat of Israel and the victory of Hamas. Remember that in order to win this conflict, Hamas only has to survive. All they need at the end is to hang on, rebuild, and go again,” charged the former premier.

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