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British government threatens Israel with arms halt

Apparently in a partial cave-in to the demands of the Liberal Democrats, the British government will suspend some of its arms exports to Israel if the current ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is broken.

The business department said a review of UK exports to Israel had identified the 12 licences for “components which could be part of equipment used by the Israel Defence Forces in Gaza”. They include equipment for military radar, combat aircraft and tanks.

Vince Cable, the business secretary, said: “We welcome the current ceasefire in Gaza and hope that it will lead to a peaceful resolution. However, the UK government has not been able to clarify if the export licence criteria are being met. In light of that uncertainty we have taken the decision to suspend these existing export licences in the event of a resumption of significant hostilities.

“No new licences of military equipment have been issued for use by the Israeli Defence Forces during the review period, and as a precautionary measure this approach will continue until hostilities cease.”

The export suspension comes after a long and fierce battle within the coalition over restricting arms sales to Israel. The prime minister, David Cameron, and the foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, have been resisting demands from Cable and the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg calling for the immediate suspension of exports.

What’s most astonishing here is that the suspension is not conditioned on which party breaks a ceasefire. If Hamas starts firing rockets at Israel again, it seems, the UK’s position is that Israel should not respond, lest this lead to “a resumption of significant hostilities.”

Even as an outsider, I could see something like this coming from the moment the Tory-Lib Dem coalition came into office.

By contrast, and despite the well-publicized tensions between Obama and Netanyahu, military cooperation between the US and Israel remains strong, and continued military aid to Israel is one of the few matters on which most Democrats and Republicans in Congress, as well as Obama, agree.