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Arms Deal Rejected

by Justin Cohen
Totally Jewish
11 July, 2002

British government officials admitted this week that Israeli applications for military equipment have been turned down in light of recent anti-terrorist operations in the West Bank.


TJ learned that recent export applications “have not been approved which would otherwise have been licensed before”.

A Foreign Office spokesman admitted the chances of successful applications since the start of the intifada had also been dented by breaches of “Israel’s assurances that UK-originated equipment would not be used in the territories”.

The spokesman conceded that officials were “looking at such applications very carefully indeed” but stressed its policy on direct exports to the Middle East had not altered.

The revelations come in the same week that Labour and Lib-Dem MPs condemned the sale of military components received by Israel through a third country.

Unveiled by the foreign secretary on Monday, the changes to UK export guidelines pave the way for the distribution of F16 fighter parts to America, for eventual use by Israel.

But Jack Straw’s insistence that the decision took into account “the importance of maintaining a strong and dynamic defence relationship with the US,” drew strong condemnation from politicians and military experts.

Richard Bingley, from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, said: "The British government has chosen against upsetting defence business ties with America at the expense of betraying its own rules on arms exports. It may have been a Hobson's choice, but UK ministers are clearly breaking their own rules."

Brian Iddon MP, of the all-party Palestine group, told TJ: “My problem is with the use of F16s to attack Palestinian civilians with disproportionate force.”

And the Liberal Democrats attacked the guidelines for ensuring “maximum flexibility and minimum accountability”.

But a Foreign Office spokesman said the changes were designed to reflect new realities in the defense industry and did not represent “a new policy”.

She said: “We don’t condone Israeli use of such aircraft against targets in the occupied territories and we are not changing our policy on direct exports to Israel.”

The guidelines were backed as “justified” by the Conservative Party and the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Donald Anderson MP.

He said: “Israel, as a democratic country, has every right to self-defence and has every right to expect other countries to assist it.”

LFI director David Mencer, added: “The fact the government is allowing these vital shipments to be made at this time speaks volumes.

“Blair clearly has an understanding that Israel lives in a very tough neighbourhood and that it’s defence is paramount to securing peace in the region.”