UK reviewing arms exports to Israel following Cast Lead

Comes after Britain acknowledges its equipment was “almost certainly” used in Gaza.

david miliband 311 (photo credit: AP)
david miliband 311
(photo credit: AP)
LONDON – A parliamentary committee has called on the British government to review the way arms sales are approved and ensure that military components sold by the UK to Israel are not used in the Palestinian territories.
The Committee on Arms Export Controls – a joint committee made up of the Defense, Foreign Affairs, International Development, Trade and Industry committees – called for the measures after the government acknowledged in a report published last week that British equipment was “almost certainly” used in Operation Cast Lead.
“This is in direct contravention to the UK government’s policy that UK arms exports to Israel should not be used in the occupied territories,” the report said.
Last April, Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced that Britain would review existing arms export licenses. The Foreign Office said that after a conflict it is “standard practice” to review licensing criteria.
The government looked at 182 licenses and announced that Israel had contravened its criteria in a small number of cases during the conflict. However, only five licenses were canceled, said to be for equipment and parts for the Sa’ar missile boat.
The joint committee said it welcomed the government’s decision to revoke the five export licenses but that “broader lessons” must be learned to ensure British arms exported to Israel are not used in the Palestinian territories.
“We recommend that the government, in its response to this report, set out clearly the longer-term lessons learnt post-Operation Cast Lead and how they will impact in practice on the issuing of future licenses for arms exports to Israel,” states the report.
According to the report, British government-approved arms exports toIsrael were worth more than £27.5 million in 2008. In the nine monthsafter Cast Lead, nearly £4m. worth of export licenses for weapons andequipment with military and civil uses were approved by the government.
Thereport also divulged that the government decided to revoke a number ofexport licenses for arms sales to Sri Lanka and that it regrets Britisharms were sold to Sri Lanka during cease-fires in the conflict withTamil Tiger rebels.
Meanwhile, the British government hasexpressed concern with the latest hostilities in Gaza and urged bothsides to show restraint and renew talks.
“We encourage Israelisand Palestinians to focus efforts on negotiation and to engage urgentlyin US-backed proximity talks,” the Foreign Office said.