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Ex-national security adviser: UK should suspend arms sales to Israel

April 3, 2024 at 4:16 pm

Lord Peter Ricketts, former UK national security adviser in Ver-sur-Mer Normandy, France on 06 June, 2021 [Kiran Ridley/Getty Images for Normandy Memorial Trust]

A former UK national security adviser has said Britain should suspend arms sales to Israel following the recent attack on World Central Kitchen (WCK) workers in Gaza’s Deir Al-Balah governorate.

Lord Peter Ricketts said Britain must stop arming Israel and called for an “immediate ceasefire”. He said: “Sometimes in conflict, you get a moment where there’s such global outrage that it crystallises a sense that things can’t go on like this. And I think – I hope – that this awful incident will serve that purpose.”

It comes after WCK confirmed that British citizens John Chapman, 57, James Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47, who were part of the charity’s security team, were among the seven staff members killed when their convoy was attacked after delivering food in Gaza.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Lord Ricketts, who served as national security adviser between 2010 and 2012, said: “I think there is abundant evidence now that Israel hasn’t been taking enough care to fulfil its obligations on the safety of civilians, and a country that gets arms from the UK has to comply with international humanitarian law, that is a condition of the arms export licensing policy.”

“I think the time has come to send that signal. It won’t change the course of the war. It would be a powerful political message, and it might just stimulate debate in the US as well, which would be the real game-changer, if the Americans began to think about putting limits, restrictions on the use of American weapons in Israel.”

He added that Israel’s inadequate response and failure to ensure the safety of aid workers delivering supplies to conflict zones should lead to “further steps to increase the pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu” such as ceasing UK arms exports to Tel Aviv.

READ: Gaza: out of control Israeli troops ‘do what they want’

Moreover, he called for “an immediate ceasefire for an extended period to open up the borders and make it safe to get aid in for those delivering it and those receiving it,” adding this could also help secure the release of Israeli prisoners of war held in Gaza.

British Foreign Secretary, Lord David Cameron, has faced increasing pressure from across the political spectrum to disclose the legal counsel he has received concerning UK arms exports to Israel.

The UK has continued to provide military support to Israel despite international concerns surrounding Israel’s actions in Palestine, with UK manufacturers supplying 15 per cent of the components for F-35 fighter jets. The Ministry of Defence also recently revealed that nine Israeli military aircraft have been authorised to land at and depart from UK bases, and approximately 50 Royal Air Force aircraft have made flights to Israel since 7 October.

The UK government’s guidelines for exporting arms include the same obligation to that used by a Dutch court in the Netherlands, which mandated that exports must be stopped if there’s a significant chance the weapons might be utilised in serious violations of international humanitarian law.

This, activists have said, prompts important questions about the government’s commitment to its legal commitments. Asked about arms exports to Israel, government officials have repeatedly said they have been assured by Israeli officials that their army is abiding by international humanitarian laws.