Britain denies 'arms embargo' of Israel

But British Foreign Office says 5 out of 182 export licenses canceled following post-Gaza op review.

Navy gunships 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Navy gunships 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Britain denied on Monday that it had imposed an arms embargo on Israel in the wake of January's Operation Cast Lead. Both the Foreign Office in London and the embassy in Tel Aviv told The Jerusalem Post that media reports claiming a "partial arms embargo" were incorrect. Rather, five arms export licenses to British companies for the sale of military equipment to Israel were revoked because their use during Operation Cast Lead constituted a "contravention" of the conditions of the sale. The revocation came after a British government review of 182 arms export licenses to Israel. All five revoked licenses were related to the upkeep of the Navy's Sa'ar 4.5 gunboats. "Some of the licenses have been revoked," confirmed an embassy spokesperson, "but it's very short of being an arms embargo or sanctions of any kind." "In light of Operation Cast Lead, and in line with our obligations after a conflict - and as we did after last summer's conflict in Georgia - we conducted a review of extant export licenses for Israel," the Foreign Office said. "A number of licenses to both Russia and Georgia were revoked following the Georgia conflict," it noted. In a statement, the embassy in Tel Aviv explained that Foreign Secretary David Miliband "announced the UK's intention to conduct this review in his statement to Parliament on 21 April 2009… We judged that in a small number of cases Israeli action in Operation Cast Lead would result in the export of those goods now contravening the consolidated criteria. These licenses have been revoked." According to reports, the Israeli Embassy in London believes the revocations are due to significant political pressure on the British government from MPs and advocacy groups. Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon declined to comment on the revocations, but said it was "disappointing that there are certain sectors in Britain who have a biased and one-sided view of the situation, and look for every opportunity to hurt Israel." The Post was unable to learn the exact nature of the Israeli misstep related to the gunboats. The British Embassy said licenses could be revoked where there is a risk "arms will be used for external aggression or internal repression." AP contributed to this report.