Britain will suspend a dozen arms export licenses to Israel “in the event of a resumption of significant hostilities” with Hamas.
The announcement was made today by Business secretary Vince Cable following a review of licensed exports to the Jewish state.
While it found that the vast majority of exports are “not for items that could be used by Israeli forces in operations in Gaza in response to attacks by Hamas”, it identified 12 licenses for components which could be part of equipment used by the IDF in Gaza including for military radar systems, combat aircraft and tanks.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “We welcome the current ceasefire in Gaza and hope that it will lead to a peaceful resolution. However the UK Government has not been able to clarify if the export licence criteria are being met.
“In the event of the renewal of significant hostilities, the government’s concern is that it may not have sufficient information to determine whether the licence assessment criteria have been contravened, for example, whether a serious violation of international humanitarian law has occurred and whether equipment containing UK components has been used. It therefore would suspend licences while it establishes more information.
“The government continues to monitor closely the situation in Israel and Gaza, and if existing licences are found to be no longer consistent with the criteria, those licences will be revoked.” The Government said today’s announcement would not include components of the Iron Dome system, commercial exports or components for manufacture of equipment to be supplied to countries outside Israel.
Cable, whose Liberal Democrat party had previously urged a fuller arms embargo, added that no new licenses had been granted during the review period “and as a precautionary measure this approach will continue until hostilities cease”.
An Israeli Embassy statement said: “Israel notes the UK’s decision to leave in place current criteria for arms export licenses. We share the UK’s hope that the current ceasefire will continue and lead to a long term solution. At the same time, should Hamas violate the current ceasefire, as it has previous ceasefires, Israel maintains the right to defend itself, a right which has been recognized and supported by the UK leadership.
“Israel regrets calls to cancel or freeze export licenses, or to condition them on a non-recurrence of hostilities. Political decisions of this nature do not reflect Hamas’ responsibility as a serial violator of past ceasefires, and are unlikely to contribute to the goal of negotiating a sustainable solution to the current conflict.”