ARMS TO ISRAEL SCANDAL
Several articles regarding the scandal of Britain
bypassing its own arms embargo on Israel by selling military equipment
via America to Israel, knowing it is to be used against Palestinian
Articles in chronological order:
in arms to Israel row
Kamal Ahmed, political editor
July 7, 2002
Britain is bypassing its own arms embargo on Israel by selling
military equipment via America.
In a move that has split the Cabinet, the Foreign Office is set
to reveal that components for F16 fighter planes will be allowed
to leave the country despite being destined for aircraft already
sold to Ariel Sharon's government.
The move will be viewed with dismay by Arab states and anti-arms
campaigners who say the arming of Israel raises tension in the area.
One senior Government figure said there was a 'clear understanding'
the fighter planes could be used for aggressive acts against the
Occupied Territories, in direct contradiction to Tony Blair's call
Israel regularly uses F16s for assaults on the Gaza Strip and the
West Bank. They have been used in attacks on Rafah and the Palestinian
securty compound in Nablus, killing civilians.
Government sources admitted the issue was 'delicate' and that rules
on sales to embargoed countries via third countries were vague.
One said the charge of hypocrisy would be 'difficult to head off'.
'We look at these things on a case-by-case basis,' said one senior
Downing Street official. 'We have to make it clear we will only
sell to countries where there are effective procedures for controlling
which countries the equipment is sold on to.'
The deal will again focus attention on the Government's attitude
to military sales abroad and raise the possibility that any arms
embargo can be bypassed by selling to a third country.
The Government was condemned this year when it was revealed it
was backing a £28 million military air traffic control system
for Tanzania despite claims the country did not need and could not
afford such a high-tech system.
The Ministry of Defence has been pushing for the Israel deal to
go through, despite opposition from Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and
Industry Secretary. She is worried about the negative message such
a deal sends to Arab supporters and the rest of the European Union.
However, Hewitt will now back the deal as long as the rules on
future contracts to third countries are clear. Britain is to provide
sophisticated navigation and targeting equipment for the F16s, which
are being built in America for Israel.
The 'head-up displays' allow pilots to see positional and weapons
information displayed in front of each eye without having to look
at separate dials. It is sold as allowing pilots to fly with fewer
distractions and increasing the accuracy of bombing raids.
The MoD admitted the contract was part of a wooing exercise to
get US military business. Britain and the US are already planning
a £100 billion joint strike fighter project.
'We have to get as much of that business as possible and we cannot
be prescriptive on what we will and won't sell them,' said one MoD
source. 'The British defence industry employs tens of thousands
of people. We have to show we are a reliable supplier of high-tech
The Foreign Office has already officially warned Israel about using
British equipment to target the Occupied Territories.
In May, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw demanded an explanation from
Sharon's government about the use of British military equipment
in tanks and attack helicopters. Straw was furious that their use
had come to light despite a written pledge from Israel in November
2000 that said 'no UK-originated equipment . . . is used as part
of the defence force's activities in the territories'.
Campaigners against the new Israeli arms deal will point to guidelines
published by the Government in 1997. They said that departments
'will not issue an export licence if there is a clearly identifiable
risk that the intended recipient would use the proposed export aggressively
against another country'.
Although the Palestinian Authority areas are not officially a country,
Blair has said that he supports a separate Palestinian state.
MPs protest at new rules on arms to Israel
By Nigel Morris,
The Independent (UK)
8 July 2002
The Government was warned last night it faced "one hell of
a row" over new arms export guidelines that will allow Britain
to sell military equipment intended for Israel.
Labour MPs and arms campaigners protested after they found out
that Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, would be spelling out updated
rules, enabling components intended for Israeli F16 fighter planes
to leave this country. The parts "heads-up" cockpit
displays will be shipped to the United States where they
will be incorporated in a consignment of jets being built for the
Israeli air force. Israel uses the planes in sorties over Palestinian
territories on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The deal will in effect bypass the Government's own embargo on
exports of equipment to Israel if they could be used for internal
repression or external aggression. The apparent intention is to
ensure British contractors can continue to win contracts in projects
involving several countries.
Downing Street said last night: "This is not a new policy.
It is guidance based on existing criteria, to take account of the
new reality of multinational assembly lines for major defence contracts."
It refused to discuss the F16 contract, but said Mr Straw would
make a Commons announcement on the revised guidelines this week.
In a foretaste of Labour backbench anger over the move, Roger Berry,
chairman of the Commons Arms Export Licensing Select Committee,
said: "Anything that undermines the commitment not to export
kit to Israel that could be used in the occupation of the Occupied
Territories would be a significant change in policy and cause a
hell of a row. I would be furious and a lot of other people would
be as well."
Alice Mahon, MP for Halifax, said ministers would face massive
objections. She said: "It is outrageous, given what is happening
in the Middle East. This is a regional superpower going against
an occupied territory with all the weaponry of modern warfare. It
is immoral and wrong."
Llew Smith, Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent, said: "How we can
get into a position of exporting arms via a third country to Israel,
which is invading the Occupied Territories on an almost daily basis,
is beyond my comprehension. If this is an ethical foreign policy,
I don't want anything to do with it."
Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said
the move was a "dispiriting" response to events in the
Middle East and one that was likely to dismay Britain's European
Sam Perlo-Freeman, a spokesman for the Campaign Against Arms Trade,
said: "They [the arms industry] have been arming India and
Pakistan, even while they stood on the brink of nuclear war, and
now they are choosing to contribute directly to death and destruction
in the Middle East. They are clearly without shame, with the interests
of the arms manufacturers being all."
The component at the centre of the row enables pilots to view information
about their weapons and position in front of each eye, without having
to look at dials. Its designer says that, by reducing distractions,
pilots can pick out targets more accurately.
cannot sell arms to Israel and pretend to be shocked if they are
8 July 2002
The Foreign Secretary was emphatic three months ago. "It is
extremely important that there should be the greatest certainty,"
he told the House of Commons, about what the Government would and
would not allow to be exported to Israel.
That is the significance of the news that Britain is to export
parts to the United States for the F16s that the US will then sell
to the Israeli Defence Force. The position set out by Jack Straw
in April seemed to have the merit of clarity, even if it did not
satisfy those who wanted to see the sweeping symbolic condemnation
of a full arms embargo on Israel.
The policy was that the Government would look at exports with a
potentially military use and refuse permission for "anything
that could be used for internal repression or for external aggression",
in Mr Straw's words. This has been Labour's policy towards all countries
since it marginally tightened up the guidelines on arms exports
when it came to power in 1997, and since 1998 a common policy has
been adopted by all the members of the European Union.
There does not seem to be much wriggle room there. It does not
matter whether the occupation of the West Bank is defined as an
internal matter for the Israeli state or a hostile action against
a putative Palestinian state. Both Britain and the EU have made
it clear that they are against it. Nor should it make any difference
that the equipment is initially going to a third country when its
ultimate destination is well known.
But the "certainty" of three months ago is now going
to be modified. Mr Straw will set out new guidance on arms sales
this week. So what has changed? According to a Downing Street spokeswoman,
the new guidelines are needed "to take account of the new reality
of multinational assembly lines for major defence contracts".
We knew the global arms industries were dynamic and fast-changing,
but this is a little too fast-moving for comfort. It looks too much
like an adaptation of the words of an ethical foreign policy whenever
they threaten to get in the way of British economic interests.
Usually, British governments have taken the right moral ground
in their policy towards Israel. They support its right of self-defence
and have no qualms about supplying arms for that purpose. But even
Margaret Thatcher's government imposed a total arms embargo in 1982,
as part of a European response to the invasion of Lebanon. That
embargo was lifted in 1994, to be replaced by a version of the "case
by case" policy we have now.
It might be argued that nothing the British government does or
fails to do makes much difference, because the value of UK military
exports to Israel is so small. So far, the only British contribution
to the crushing of the Palestinian rebellion, with its inevitable
civilian casualties, has been some 30-year-old Centurion tank chassis
which were rebuilt as personnel carriers.
However, we do not urge on Mr Straw the idea of a complete embargo
simply for the sake of a gesture. Certainly a full embargo would
be largely symbolic, but symbolism and moral pressure are important
tools of diplomacy. In order to be effective, though, moral condemnation
must be sharpened by clarity.
Britain, and the EU, should condemn Israeli policy in the West
Bank and should make that condemnation as emphatic as possible.
Unless we are prepared to suffer some loss in our defence industries
for the sake of it, our moral outrage is useless.
of Israeli jet parts approved
Staff and agencies
July 8, 2002
The government has granted export licences for components to be
used in US-built F16 fighters destined for Israel, the foreign secretary,
Jack Straw, announced today.
He said any interruption to the supply of Head Up Display units
(HUDs) to be used in the fighter aircraft would have "serious
implications" for defence relations with the US.
The go-ahead, given by the trade and industry secretary, Patricia
Hewitt, is likely to invoke fury from Labour backbenchers who see
it as unethical for Britain to be contributing to Israel's operations
in the Middle East conflict.
The government currently refuses to issue export licences for equipment
destined for Israel if it could be used against the Palestinians
in the occupied territories.
The decision to issue new guidelines would appear to reflect concerns
that British defence contractors should be able to compete effectively
for a stake in lucrative multinational projects.
Labour MPs have warned that ministers would face fierce opposition
if there was a retreat from the current position regarding the Middle
The foreign secretary, in a parliamentary written answer, announced
the decision as he set out new guidelines for how the UK will approach
licence applications for goods which are to be incorporated into
products for onward export.
Downing Street earlier said the guidelines reflected the "new
reality" of the multinational defence industry.
Mr Straw said the end of the cold war and subsequent reduction
in defence budgets worldwide had meant a massive rationalisation
of the defence industry which presented "new challenges"
for the government's approach.
"One consequence of this change is that increasingly defence
goods are manufactured from components sourced in several different
countries," he added.
Existing EU guidelines state that licence applications would be
judged on a case-by-case basis but do not provide guidance on "incorporation"
cases, Mr Straw said.
The government would assess such applications on a case-by-case
basis but take into account a number of factors, including the importance
of the UK's defence and security relationship with the "incorporating
Mr Straw stressed that the HUDs amounted to less than 1% in the
value of the F-16s, which are scheduled for delivery to Israel in
But he added: "Any interruption to the supply of these components
would have serious implications for the UK's defence relations with
the United States."
The UK government remained "seriously concerned" about
the situation in Israel and the occupied territories, Mr Straw said,
stressing its role in reducing the level of tension in the conflict.
"Appropriate use of arms exported to Israel by the US is the
subject of regular dialogue between the two countries, and when
the US have concerns they make these known to the Israelis,"
Mr Straw said.
"The state department has been monitoring Israeli actions
carefully and will continue to do so."
The US-UK defence relationship was "fundamental" to the
UK's national security and its ability to play a strong and effective
role in the world, particularly in the wake of September 11, the
foreign secretary added.
Earlier, Labour MP Dr Brian Iddon, the secretary of the Commons
all-party Palestine group, said: "I am very disappointed that
we are aiding and abetting the Americans to attack the Palestinians.
"I have been disappointed by the British government's attitude
towards Palestine. They keep mentioning in statements suicide bombers,
terrorism, as if the Palestinians were the only ones creating terrorism
in that area.
"I would submit that Ariel Sharon and particularly his defence
force are equally terrorising the Palestinians.
"I think we are leaning too far in the direction of the Israelis
at the moment and we are not putting enough pressure on them to
sort the mess out."
The "head-up" cockpit displays are made by BAe Systems
and exported to US firm Lockheed Martin which builds the F-16 fighters.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman stressed that the government's policy
on not exporting arms directly to Israel remained unchanged, and
that all applications would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
But the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, Menzies Campbell,
said the decision would leave the door open to exports "of
"This clearly rushed and reactive change of policy provides
maximum flexibility and minimum accountability. The revised criteria
give the government absolute discretion and open the door to any
arms exports of any kind which may seem right at the time.
"By announcing this change the government has further strengthened
the already overwhelming case for prior parliamentary scrutiny of
sensitive arms exports," he said.
"Who on earth believes that the hopes of peace in the Middle
East will be helped one bit by this decision, and just exactly what
would we refuse to export to areas of tension like India and Pakistan?"
provokes row over arms for Israel
Michael White and Richard Norton-Taylor
July 9, 2002
Anger over export guidelines which sanction British
components for warplanes bound for Middle East
The government yesterday enraged its backbench critics, supporters
of the Palestinian cause and human rights groups, by allowing the
export of British components for US F16 warplanes sold to Israel.
In a move which ministers said was dictated by the interests of
British arms companies, the foreign secretary, Jack Straw told MPs
that stopping the supply of the F16 parts would have "serious
implications" for defence relations with the US.
He announced new export guidelines agreed by the trade and industry
secretary, Patricia Hewitt, covering British components that would
be incorporated in weapons systems sold on to third countries, in
this case Israel.
Downing Street earlier said the guidelines reflected the "new
reality" of the multinational defence industry. "If there
is any doubt about our re liability as a supplier the Americans
will go elsewhere on the JSF," a minister said referring to
the £100bn joint strike fighter project due to enter service
with the US air force and the RAF in the next decade.
BAE Systems, Britain's largest arms company, supplies head up display
units (HUDs) for the F16s to be to be sold to Israel. Downing Street
admitted these amounted to "only 1% to that particular aircraft".
However, despite the government's existing policy of refusing to
issue export licences for equipment if it could be used against
the Palestinians in the occupied territories, and the anger which
the move would provoke, Tony Blair's allies are afraid that any
wavering on the "new realities" of multinational defence
projects would jeopardise many other lucrative contracts.
Leftwing MPs, including Alice Mahon, demanded a Commons statement,
predicting that the EU - more critical of US-Israeli intimacy than
Britain - would be dismayed. When the region was again on the brink
of war the rule change was "an absolute scandal", Ms Mahon
Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman called
it a "clearly rushed and reactive change of policy [to] provide
maximum flexibility and minimum accountability" - a form of
absolute discretion that would "open the door to any arms exports
of any kind".
He again called for prior parliamentary scrutiny of such deals.
The US congress has such scrutiny - which forced the Reagan White
House to engage in clandestine sales to Iran to finance its illegal
contra forces in Nicaragua in the 1980s.
"Anything that undermines the commitment not to export kit
to Israel that could be used in the occupation of the occupied territories
would be a significant change in policy," said Roger Berry,
chairman of the Commons arms committee.
The shadow foreign secretary, Michael Ancram, also stressed the
need to draw a proper distinction between arms needed for the protection
of a state and those that could be used for internal repression.
The Guardian has revealed that British equipment is used in Israeli
tanks and attack helicopters, the main weapons used against Palestinians
in the occupied territories.
Israeli Merkava tanks have been equipped with cooling systems made
by the Airtechnology Group, the Surrey-based company confirmed yesterday.
British equipment is also used in US Apache helicopters supplied
Mr Straw told MPs the US-UK defence relationship was "fundamental"
to the Britain's national security. He added: "The state department
has been monitoring Israeli actions carefully."
Phil Bloomer, an Oxfam spokesman, said the proposed sale was a
dangerous precedent which could easily lead to British arms turning
up in the world's bloodiest conflicts.
defies MPs over Israel arms
By Nigel Morris,
The Independent (UK)
09 July 2002
Jack Straw defied Labour MPs last night and approved the sale of
military equipment for Israel.
Rebellious backbenchers wrote to the Speaker, Michael Martin, and
to the Foreign Secretary demanding a Commons statement on the issuing
of export licences for components to be used in United States-built
F-16 fighters to be sold to Israel.
F-16s have flown regular bombing sorties over Palestinian territories
in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The deal, which in effect sidesteps the government embargo on sales
of military equipment that could be used by the Israelis for internal
suppression, was strongly defended by Mr Straw. He said Britain
had some of the toughest rules on military exports, but insisted
this contract was vital for Britain's defence relationship with
Downing Street admitted the Government had faced a "difficult
decision" in an area where there had been no clear guidance.
Labour MPs were incensed that the export licence, which they believe
undermines the party's promise to have an "ethical dimension"
to its foreign policy, was announced in a Commons written answer.
Denouncing the Government's decision as completely immoral, Alice
Mahon, the Labour MP for Halifax, warned of a "real, growing
unease" among backbenchers.
She said: "The Foreign Secretary himself in the past has condemned
in the strongest possible terms the fact that Israel has used F-16s
and helicopter gunships in the Occupied Territories. This, after
the scandal of continuing to arm India when India and Pakistan stood
on the brink of a nuclear war, I think is just a bit too much to
stands alone over arms to Israel
:Ministers unhappy with fighter jet deal
By Oonagh Blackman
The Mirror (UK)
10 July 2002
JACK Straw was left isolated yesterday over his decision to sell
military parts to America for use by the Israelis.
Labour MPs, human rights groups and Palestinian supporters were
outraged at the decision and branded it "unethical".
Even key figures, such as Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt, distanced
themselves from the move.
And it emerged last night that Mr Straw had also faced opposition
from within the Foreign Office.
It came from his former Foreign Minister Ben Bradshaw, who was
said to be "totally dismayed" when he found out Mr Straw
was planning to give the green light to export display units used
by F-16 pilots.
The fighter jet equipment would be sold to the US firm Lockheed
Martin and the completed planes would then be sent to Israel. As
junior minister responsible for the Middle East and international
terrorism, Mr Bradshaw would have personally had to make the announcement
to the Commons.
An insider said last night: "He was strongly opposed to the
change in policy. He felt so deeply about it that he told the Foreign
Secretary it was a resigning matter for him. But they reached a
compromise and it was decided Jack would make the announcement instead
and would guarantee close scrutiny of the deal."
Weeks later, Mr Bradshaw was shunted out of the Foreign Office
in a Cabinet reshuffle at the end of May.
He was made deputy to Commons Leader Robin Cook in what was widely
seen as a sideways move.
The row came at the height of the Israeli action on Palestinian
refugee camps and Yasser Arafat's HQ. At that time, even Mr Straw
was critical of the attacks.
He said in April: "I am profoundly concerned at scenes of
widespread destruction of densely populated refugee camps."
But when he announced the new arms policy to MPs on Monday, he
said: "We're not a pacifist country. I do not believe we would
make the world a safer place by Britain not being involved in responsible
His remarks provoked outrage and furious Labour backbenchers demanded
Mr Straw be hauled before the Commons to justify his decision.
-A REPORT by Defence Committee MPs claims Government cost-cutting,
including the withdrawal of the Navy's fleet of Sea Harriers, could
leave Britain's armed forces dangerously under-equipped.