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Spotlight on Parliament: 8th April 2011

Concerns over arms sales to Israel

This week in the UK parliament, Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed that Britain is supporting a proposal to the Quartet by Germany and France which would base peace negotiations on the 1967 borders, land swaps, a just settlement for refugees and Jerusalem as a shared capital. William Hague was answering a question from Labour MP Andy Slaughter on proposals to recognise Palestine as a state within the 1967 borders. However, the Foreign Secretary said that the UK would not be recognising Palestine as a state at the moment, but is advocating a return to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. However, Mr Hague’s comments come at a time of rising tension between the two parties and ignore the fact that many of his comments refer to final status issues which should not be used to form the basis for negotiations. Additionally, numerous political commentators have started to say recently that the two-state solution proffered in negotiations may no longer be a viable reality.


In a number of written parliamentary questions this week, ardent Zionist MP Guto Bebb delivered a message of pure Israeli hasbara (propaganda), by reflecting on the work of Israeli science, health and technological services. Highlighting the work of these fields he was following a growing trend of the Israeli propaganda machine in focusing on the contributions Israel makes whilst ignoring the many human rights violations and oppression it perpetrates. The Minister for the Middle East contributed to the hasbara, by confirming that Britain is supporting Israel in its scientific achievements with grants for projects such as the UK-Israel Life Sciences Council.

This week the House of Commons Committee on Arms Export Controls released a report questioning the British government’s policy on arms exports to the Middle East. In March 2010 the CAEC confirmed that the supply of arms to Israel and the use of these arms against Palestinians in the OPTs were in direct contravention of the UK government’s policy, as established about 10 years ago.

The committee argued that it was almost certain that arms sold to Israel were used during Operation Cast Lead and called on the then government to set out the lessons learnt and the impact on the issuing of future licences for arms exports to Israel. However, following the election of the new government in May 2010, the incoming Foreign Office Minister did an about-turn and claimed that the UK did not have a policy that British-made arms exported to Israel should not be used in the OPTs. The Committee recommended in its report that the government clarify its exact position on arms exports and stated that if the Government is willing to approve arms exports to Israel for use in the OPTs, then it must clarify what specific arms or arms components, otherwise it should withdraw its statement.

William Hague made a further two statements this week, which appeared to be chastising Israel on one hand while ignoring its abuses and atrocities on the other. The Foreign Secretary condemned the Israeli government’s decision to approve 900 illegal settlements in Occupied East Jerusalem, stating that it was not “disputed territory” but “occupied Palestinian territory”, and that Israel was taking steps to make reconciliation between Israel and Palestine more difficult. This appeared to be the easier option for Mr Hague, as he ignored Thursday’s bombardment by Israel of the Gaza Strip which killed and injured innocent Palestinian civilians. Meanwhile, he was very quick to condemn the attack on an Israeli school bus which injured two children. His statement was supplemented by a short statement expressing his “concern at reports that several people in Gaza were killed”. He has not yet condemned unequivocally Israel’s actions against the civilian population of Gaza.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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