UK violates own ban on arms sale to Israel
Britain is overriding its own decision to impose an arms embargo on Israel by selling sophisticated navigation and targeting equipment for F16s, which are being assembled in United States for Ariel Sharon's government, British newspaper, The Observer revealed.
Seeking to land major defense contracts in the US, the British Ministry of Defense has been pushing for the F16 deal to go through, despite apprehension about Arab and European reactions to the deal. British officials admitted rules on arms sales to embargoed countries via third countries were vague.
No European arms embargos have so far been officially imposed on Israel, although the governments of Germany and the United Kingdom are looking at Israeli arms requests with greater scrutiny, effectively suspending potential deals. Germany, whose law prohibits arms sales to regions in conflict, has put off delivery of spare parts to the Israeli Army’s Merkava tank.
Britain has imposed a de facto arms embargo on Israel since April, applying to military equipment that could be used in Israel's continuing operations in the Palestinian territories. Israel has employed F16s fighter planes in its assaults on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, regardless of its November 2000 pledge that ‘no UK-originated equipment ... are used as part of the defense force's activities in the territories’."
Seeking to launch a new era of "ethical foreign policy", Tony Blair's Labor government passed a law in 1997 stipulating that arms cannot be sold to a country "if there is a clearly identifiable risk that the intended recipient would use the proposed export aggressively against another country."
In May 2002, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw demanded an explanation from Sharon's government about the use of British military equipment in tanks and attack helicopters.
Israeli Merkava tanks have been equipped until 1996 with cooling systems made by the Surrey-based Airtechnology Group. Missile trigger systems, made by the UK-based Smiths Group, have been installed in the American Apache helicopters supplied to Israel. Chassis from British Centurion tanks, exported to Israel between 1958 and 1970, have been used in armored personnel carriers.
Israel’s largest arms supplier, the United States, has not suggested that sales are in any jeopardy. Israel, which received roughly two billion dollars in US military aid this fiscal year, is also the largest recipient of US Foreign Military Financing grants, which the country uses to purchase US weaponry as well as weapons produced by its own arms industry. — (menareport.com)
© 2002 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)