by Justin Cohen
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 Israels 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 Straws 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 dont 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
LFI director David Mencer, added: The fact the government
is allowing these vital shipments to be made at this time speaks
Blair clearly has an understanding that Israel lives in a
very tough neighbourhood and that its defence is paramount
to securing peace in the region.