The British government said Tuesday that if fighting resumes in the Gaza Strip in any significant way, it will impose a partial arms embargo on Israel.
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The embargo will cover export licenses for 12 components used by the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza, including spare parts for fighter jets, drones, tanks and radars. It will not apply to any components of the Iron Dome antimissile system.
The statement issued by Britain’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills detailed the conclusions of its recent review of defense exports to Israel. It decided on the review last week due to the war in Gaza.
Responding to the statement, the Israeli embassy in London said that Israel "regrets calls to cancel or freeze export licenses, or to condition them on a non-recurrence of hostilities, Political decisions of this nature do not reflect Hamas' responsibility as a serial violator of past cease-fires and are unlikely to contribute to the goal of negotiating a sustainable solution to the current conflict."
The ministry's review concluded that the vast majority of Britain’s defense exports to Israel are for items the IDF didn’t use during the fighting in Gaza. But it found 12 components “which could be part of equipment” the IDF used in the fighting.
“Currently there is a cease-fire in place and the government continues to urge both sides to respect this and to secure a lasting end to hostilities through the negotiations taking place in Cairo,” the statement said. “However, in the event of a resumption of significant hostilities, the government is concerned that it would not be able to clarify if the export license criteria are being met. It would therefore suspend these licenses as a precautionary step.”
Business Secretary Vince Cable, of the Liberal Democratic party, said that “No new licenses of military equipment have been issued for use by the Israeli Defense Force during the review period and as a precautionary measure this approach will continue until hostilities cease.” He added that the government will continue monitoring the situation closely, “and if existing licenses are found to be no longer consistent with the criteria, those licenses will be revoked.”
But the embargo will not cover a license granted in February 2013 for the export of as much as £7.7 billion ($12.95 billion) of cryptographic equipment that “could be used to build mobile phone networks in residential areas and for small businesses,” the statement said. That’s because “none of this equipment meets military specifications and would not suitable for building military communications equipment,” the statement said.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who heads the Conservative Party, ordered the review after coming under heavy pressure from his coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats’ leader and deputy prime minister, had publicly demanded that Britain stop any arms exports to Israel that might be used in the fighting in Gaza.
In the past week, the parties held intensive consultations on the issue and eventually agreed on the wording of Tuesday’s decision.
In its response, the Israeli embassy noted that the decision "[leaves] in place current criteria for arms export licenses. We share the UK's hope that the current ceasefire will continue and lead to a long term solution. At the same time, should Hamas violate the current ceasefire, as it has previous ceasefires, Israel maintains the right to defend itself, a right which has been recognized and supported by the UK leadership."