Elham Asaad Buaras
Sajid Javid’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills announced on July 14 that it is to lift a partial arms embargo on Israel that was imposed toward the end of last year’s Gaza conflict.
The partial arms sales ban to Israel was spearheaded by Business Secretary’s predecessor Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat MP, who pushed for the embargo as Business Secretary during the coalition with the Conservative-led Government.
Cable explained at the time that the Government was unable to clarify whether the arms sales licenses concerned – which included components for radars and tanks – breached UK regulations which expressly forbid exports being used for “internal repression” or “aggravate existing tensions or conflicts.”
The Liberal Democrat viewed Israel’s response to the Hamas rocket fire by attacking and partially invading Gaza as “disproportionate.”
As the conflict developed, he demanded an immediate ban on all further arms sales. The review into such arms sales resulted.
Pro-Israel Javid announced that, having completed their review, they were now satisfied that licenses for material including components for military radar and tanks met the UK’s export criteria.
The announcement came only a month after Javid hailed a “golden era” of business ties between the UK and Israel, acknowledging that British businesses, including Barclays and Rolls Royce, had invested over £1bn in Israel.
The Bromsgrove MP said: “The past few years have been a golden era – what really excites me are the possibilities for the years that lie ahead.”
He added: “Over the past 67 years, Israel has made business boom in the barren desert. It is one of the many reasons I have long admired the country.”
The Business Innovation and Skills Department explained further that, with their review complete, they would now apply its normal criteria to all exports and thus would lift the threat to suspend licenses in the event of fresh hostilities.
Human rights activists condemned the decision to lift restrictions.
Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, branded the decision “extremely weak”.
“It sends the message that Israel can continue using UK arms against the people of Gaza and the government will do nothing to stop it,” he said.
The latest official Government figures, collated by War on Want, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Campaign Against Arms Trade, reveal that the UK approved £4 million worth of arms sales to Israel in the four months that followed last year’s bombardment of Gaza.
The licences cover equipment which is likely to be used if violence resumes, including components for military helicopters and licences for military guidance/navigation equipment. There were also 36 licences to third party countries for weapons being sold to Israel; including licences for components for surface-to-surface missiles, combat helicopters and military communications equipment.
Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Sarah Colborne, said: “By continuing to arm Israel, the UK Government continues to arm apartheid. Sanctions are vital if the Palestinians are to see a future free from occupation, apartheid, killings and destruction. ”