Cabi­net row over Bri­tish arms ban

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH

THE GOVERN­MENT’S de­ci­sion to sus­pend a se­ries of arms ex­port li­cences to Is­rael if hos­til­i­ties re­sume in Gaza led to a ma­jor row be­tween the coali­tion par­ties, the JC un­der­stands.

Busi­ness Sec­re­tary Vince Ca­ble, who holds sole re­spon­si­bil­ity for is­su­ing arms li­cences un­der the leg­is­la­tion, favoured a whole­sale ban on all arms to Is­rael.

Alt­bough Con­ser­va­tive min­is­ters op­posed him, they were powerless un­der the law to stop Dr Ca­ble ex­er­cis­ing his uni­lat­eral power.

A se­ries of dis­agree­ments took place within the busi­ness de­part­ment and govern­ment with ef­forts made by Con­ser­va­tive min­is­ters to talk Dr Ca­ble out of plac­ing a full ban on arms ex­ports.

On Tues­day evening the Busi­ness Sec­re­tary an­nounced that the de­part­ment had con­cluded its re­view and found that the vast ma­jor­ity of ex­ports could not be used by the IDF in Gaza.

But Dr Ca­ble also said that 12 li­cences had been iden­ti­fied which would be sus­pended “as a pre­cau­tion­ary step” if “sig­nif­i­cant hos­til­i­ties” re­sume.

The de­ci­sion means the govern­ment would im­pose an arms em­bargo on Is­rael if Ha­mas launches rocket at­tacks, the cease­fire breaks down and Is­rael takes de­fen­sive ac­tion.

A spokesman at the Is­raeli em­bassy in Lon­don said: “Po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions of this na­ture do not re­flect Ha­mas’ re­spon­si­bil­ity as a se­rial vi­o­la­tor of past cease­fires, and are un­likely to con­trib­ute to the goal of ne­go­ti­at­ing a sus­tain­able so­lu­tion to the cur­rent con­flict.”

Stu­art Po­lak, Con­ser­va­tive Friends of Is­rael direc­tor, said: “It is a crazy sit­u­a­tion that the Busi­ness Sec­re­tary has sole power in re­la­tion to an im­por­tant for­eign pol­icy tool. This law needs to be amended so this can­not hap­pen again.

Bri­tain’s spend­ing on Is­raeli mil­i­tary equip­ment far out­strips what the IDF pays for Bri­tish items. Less than £10 mil­lion is spent an­nu­ally by Is­rael. But the Bri­tish Army’s drone fleet is re­liant on tech­nol­ogy partly de­vel­oped by Is­rael, with more than £1 bil­lion spent in the past seven years on items to pro­tect Bri­tish soldiers in

Afghanistan.

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