UK will review arms exports to Israel

Move follows pressure from MPs; decision mostly symbolic as UK supplies less than 1% of IDF gear.

miliband with saudi woman 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
miliband with saudi woman 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Britain said it will review all weapons exports to Israel following the country's recent war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The move comes amid pressure from British lawmakers who had demanded that the government ensure UK weapon parts were not used against Palestinians. Foreign Secretary David Miliband told Parliament Tuesday that all export licenses would be reviewed "in light of recent events in Gaza." Israel's three-week offensive ended in mid-January. He said all future applications to export arms to Israel will also be assessed with the Gaza conflict in mind. Miliband said Britain supplies less than 1 percent of Israel's military imports. But the decision to review arms exports carries heavier diplomatic significance as British-Israeli relations were already tense after the UK spearheaded efforts to curb importing Israeli goods made in settlements beyond the Green Line, the pre-1967 border. Trade agreements between the European Union and Israel suspend tariffs on goods from within the Green Line, but not from the territories. In late March, Israeli officials demanded the UK release its investigation into goods imported from Israel to see that it was not breaking the agreement. Late last year, Britain circulated an internal note to the 26 other EU members raising concern that goods produced in the settlements, and subject to tariffs, were entering Britain tariff-free. Furthermore, the non-paper urged the EU to adopt a more stringent labeling policy on goods coming from Israel, amid British concern that goods labeled "made in the West Bank" could lead consumers to erroneously believe they were of Palestinian origin. However, the sources said, an internal British investigation of goods from 28 Israeli companies found that there was no violation in the imports from 26 of them, while the goods from two companies were still being looked into. In November, the British Independent reported that London was "taking the lead in pressing the EU to curb imports from Israeli producers in the occupied West Bank as a practical step towards halting the steady increase in the construction of Jewish settlements."