Britain Reconsiders Arms Sales

Britain is reconsidering its policy of selling arms to the State of Israel and it has yet to close a loophole allowing arrests of Israeli leaders.

Hana Levi Julian , | updated: 11:46 AM

F-16 fighter jet
F-16 fighter jet
Israel news photo: IDF

Britain is reconsidering its policy of selling weapons to the State of Israel, and it has yet to end legal proceedings for arresting Israeli leaders.

The country has yet to close a legal loophole that enables the arrest of Israeli military and political leaders if they enter the country, an issue that has dogged the heels of diplomats since the end of Operation Cast Lead. Palestinian Authority Arab representatives are still able to charge Israeli leaders with involvement in possible war crimes in the Gaza war more than a year ago, despite vows by London officials that they would close the loophole enabling such action.

The British government is also reconsidering its policy of selling weapons to the State of Israel. A report published this week by the House of Commons Committees on Arms Export Controls said it was “almost certainly” the case that British weapons were used during the Gaza war. The counterterrorism operation was launched to quell the thousands of ceaseless rocket attacks fired at civilians in Israel's southern communities, most intensively following Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.

There are two issues at stake, according to the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), a nonprofit organization, and the Defense Analysis newsletter, both based in London.

The first is the matter of general arms sales to Israel, which is being reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Five out of 182 export licenses were revoked following Operation Cast Lead, although three were found to be expired or the deals were completed by the time the decisions were made. All five related to the exports of systems for the Sa'ar 4.5 class Israel Navy missiles boats.

The second matter relates to the issue of parts that are exported to the United States and are then incorporated into systems that are sold to Israel. This includes the U.S.-built Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jet, and is a more complicated matter, since it affects diplomatic wrangling with a third party, as well as the job market overseas and at home.

General elections are coming up shortly in Britain, and politicians are mindful of how such economic and political impacts will play at home and abroad.