The UK will not suspend arms sales to Israel, Cameron and Sunak confirm

The decision follows the accidental killing of three British aid workers last week


Britain's Foreign Minister David Cameron speaks during a press conference in Cairo, December 21, 2023 (Credit: AHMED HASAN/AFP via Getty Images)

The UK will not suspend arms sales to Israel by British companies after having reviewed the latest legal advice on international law.

Foreign Secretary James Cameron reaffirmed on Tuesday that Israel “remains a vital defence and security partner to the UK” adding: “Our cooperation makes the UK and Israel more secure from external threats.”

Speaking at a joint press conference with US counterpart Anthony Blinken in Washington DC, Cameron said the latest assessment of the international legality of continuing to supply weapons to Israel “leaves our position on export licenses unchanged. This is consistent with the advice that I and other ministers have received, and as ever we will keep the position under review.”

The remarks come amid growing pressure on Number 10 to publish the legal advice it has been given following the killing of seven aid workers, including three British volunteers, in an Israeli airstrike last week.

Cameron’s position was reaffirmed Wednesday morning by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during an interview with LBC host Nick Ferrari, who said the UK’s “long-established process” relating to arms export decisions has “led to no change.”

“Actually, none of our closest allies have currently suspended existing arms licenses either, so we continue to discuss these things with our allies,” Sunak said.

Cameron, during Tuesday’s press conference, reiterated that “we continue to have grave concerns around the humanitarian access issue in Gaza… We’ve seen a welcome increase in trucks… the highest since October 7, and of course public commitments from Israel to flood Gaza with aid. These now need to be turned into reality.”

According to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), 468 aid trucks entered Gaza yesterday, the highest total since the beginning of the war. This follows 419 on Monday and 322 on Sunday.

Cameron said he discussed both issues with Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Tuesday. Cameron also conveyed to Katz the UK government’s wish to see expanded operating hours of the Kerem Shalom crossing, increasing the number of aid trucks entering Gaza daily to 500, opening the Erez crossing, establishing a humanitarian corridor from Jordan that can transport 100 trucks a day, protective equipment for humanitarian workers and a de-escalation mechanism put in place to ensure their safety.

Israel contends that threats from some political quarters in the UK to suspend military aid sends a dangerous message to Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran about the willingness of Israel’s allies to support the country at a time of multi-front existential war.

In an op-ed for the Sunday Times last weekend, Cameron reaffirmed Israel’s right to self-defence. “Israel cannot be expected,” he wrote, “to live next to an organisation that carried out such brutal attacks and has declared that, if possible, it would do the same all over again.”

Alongside calling for an increase in aid reaching Gaza, he demanded for “the immediate release of all hostages. That innocent people have been captured and held is a perpetual reminder of the monstrous organisation we are dealing with.”

UK arms imports represent less than one per cent of Israel’s total imported arms, and an even smaller proportion of Israel’s overall weapons arsenal.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive