MPs 'regret' use of UK arms by Israel in Gaza

By Simon Rocker, August 20, 2009
An Israeli F-16 fighter plane, used by the IDF in Operation Cast Lead, which uses British-made components

An Israeli F-16 fighter plane, used by the IDF in Operation Cast Lead, which uses British-made components

A committee of MPs has said it was regrettable that arms components made in the UK were “almost certainly” used by Israel in the conflict in Gaza earlier this year.

In a report published on Wednesday, the arms export controls committee recommended that the government "continue to do everything possible to ensure that this does not happen in future".

It also backed the refusal to licence the sale of certain components to Israel since the Lebanon war of 2006.

"The government’s review of extant licences relating to Israel is to be welcomed," the MPs wrote, "as is its stated intention of assessing the need to revoke any which should be reconsidered in light of the Gaza conflict."

The wide-ranging report, which also dealt with arms sales to Sri Lanka, Burma, the Ukraine and other countries, “focused particularly” on Israel this year.

Chaired by Labour MP Roger Berry, the committee comprises members of four Commons select committees including defence and foreign affairs.

Evidence given by Foreign Secretary David Miliband stated that F16 planes and Apache helicopters used by Israeli forces in Gaza “almost certainly” used British-supplied components.

Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell also told the committee: “It is a fact that in the past five or six years, each year between nine and 26 applications to Israel have been refused, and Israel regularly features in the top three or four countries for which sales are refused.”

Responding to the comments on Israel in the report, a Foreign Office spokesperson said: “All countries have an inherent right to self defence as enshrined in the UN Charter.  However, we are extremely careful in assessing each export licence application to ensure that it fully complies with the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.” 

Following the Gaza conflict, the government had carried out a review of all licences relating to Israel, she said; “This review led us to conclude that UK supplied equipment, covered by two extant licences, was being used by Israel in a manner that was inconsistent with the criteria.  As a result, both licences were revoked.”

The committee also noted that on one occasion a chemical had been exported to Israel and Taiwan when the export company had been wrongly informed by the authorities that it was not prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The Israeli Embassy declined to comment.

Last updated: 9:20am, August 21 2009