Deputy British PM: Suspend Arms Exports to Israel

Nick Clegg calls for arms exports to Israel to be suspended, says he supports Muslim minister who resigned.

Elad Benari ,

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, on Tuesday called for arms exports to Israel to be suspended.

Clegg’s call came after Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a British minister who was the first Muslim woman to sit in the Cabinet, resigned over the British government's policy on Gaza.

"I think the question marks that Sayeeda Warsi has raised about the arms export licenses which we issue to arms exporters selling to Israel are very serious ones and I share her concerns”, the Liberal Democrat leader said in a statement on his website.

"It’s obvious to me that however much Israel has every right to defend itself from those rocket attacks from Hamas, nonetheless the Israeli military operation overstepped the mark in Gaza,” he continued.

“This outrageous spectacle of these three UN schools being hit by Israeli military action. That’s why I believe that the export licenses should now be suspended,” wrote Clegg, who added that he believes that “the actions of the Israeli military, overstepping the mark in Gaza, breach the conditions of those export licenses and that’s why we want to see them suspended pending a wider review of whether they should be revoked more permanently in the long run.”

"I believe we will be able to make an announcement on this, finally, very shortly. It’s taken a little bit longer than I’d like to have this agreed across government but I think it’s very important that in response to clearly what appears to be disproportionate military action of Israel in Gaza, we should be suspending the arms export licenses that presently exist," said Clegg.

In announcing her resignation earlier Tuesday, Warsi wrote on Twitter, "With deep regret I have this morning written to the Prime Minister & tendered my resignation. I can no longer support Govt policy on #Gaza."

On Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron's office said that London was reviewing licenses to sell arms and military goods to Israel in the light of ongoing operations in Gaza.

"We are currently reviewing all export licenses to Israel to confirm that we think they are appropriate," said a Downing Street spokeswoman.

"Clearly the current situation has changed compared to when some licenses will have been granted, and we're reviewing those existing licenses against the current situation, but no decisions have been taken beyond going back again and reviewing," the spokeswoman added.

The announcement from Downing Street comes after Cameron said earlier Monday that the United Nations was "right" to condemn the shelling of a UN school in Gaza which killed 10 people but declined to say whether he thought it breached international law.

Cameron was one of several European leaders to criticize Israel over its actions in Gaza.