Will the United Kingdom Continue Arms Sales to Israel?

On the decision that the US will suspend the sale of arms to Israel, David Cameron, the foreign secretary, said that the UK would not follow through with the same move, explaining that the UK is not such a big supplier of arms to Israel

by Sededin Dedovic
Will the United Kingdom Continue Arms Sales to Israel?
© WPA Pool / Getty Images

Upon the decision for America to suspend weapon sales to Israel, David Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, stated that the United Kingdom would not follow suit, explaining that the United Kingdom is not as significant a supplier of weapons to Israel.

He also added that the United Kingdom does not support the invasion of the city of Rafah without a clear plan on how to protect civilians, as reported by The Guardian. "There are fundamental differences between the situation in the U.S.

and in the U.K.," said Cameron. According to him, America is a "major state supplier to Israel," while the United Kingdom is not. Although they have the capability to deliver weapons with a large number of licenses, their exports constitute only 1% of the total weapons supplied to Israel.

"When it comes to Rafah, it is clear that we would not support a major operation in that city unless there is a very clear plan on how to protect people and save lives. We have not had the opportunity to see such a plan so far, so under these circumstances, we will not support an operation in Rafah," added the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom.

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron gestures as he delivers a speech at the National Cyber Security Centre on May 9, 2024 in Lond© WPA Pool / Getty Images

British officials did not specify what would constitute "crossing the red line" in Rafah according to their opinion, but it seems that a ground invasion would be considered a violation of international humanitarian law.

Cameron emphasized that their focus is still on improving the flow of humanitarian aid in Gaza, and the situation has significantly improved with the opening of the crossing in Rafah. The claim that weapon sales from the United Kingdom are not the same as those from America to Israel could be challenged based on the fact that the quantity and suppliers of weapons are irrelevant; the question is whether the weapons are used in a manner that could lead to the risk of violating international humanitarian law.

The support of the United Kingdom to Israel depends on whether Israel will adhere to international humanitarian law, wrote British Foreign Minister David Cameron in a column few days ago. "Our support is not unconditional," Cameron wrote in The Sunday Times.

"We expect such a proud and successful democracy to adhere to international humanitarian law, even when provoked," he added. The British government has been a loyal ally of Israel since Hamas attacked southern Israel on October 7, triggering an Israeli campaign to eliminate the militant Islamist group.

But Cameron has toughened his statements in recent months due to the dire humanitarian situation in the Palestinian enclave. Cameron warned of the danger of mass hunger if Israel does not allow more aid. On Saturday, the United Kingdom announced that it would send a naval vessel to deliver aid as part of international efforts.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reiterated his call to Hamas to release Israeli hostages and immediately cease fighting on Sunday, six months after Hamas's attack on Israel. "We still stand by Israel's right to defeat the threat from Hamas terrorists, but the whole United Kingdom is shocked by the bloodshed and horrified by the killing of brave British heroes who were delivering food to those in need," Sunak said.

The British government is also under pressure to publish its latest legal assessment of Israel's conduct in the Gaza war, which could potentially affect British arms exports. Last week, three former Supreme Court judges joined calls for the government to halt arms sales to Israel made by more than 600 lawyers.

The signatories of the appeal say that arms sales could make Britain complicit in genocide in Gaza. The UK exported £42 million worth of weapons to Israel in 2022. In December, the government decided that this export should continue but be under scrutiny.

Cameron said on March 8 that the decision would be made in the "coming days." David Lammy, a potential Foreign Minister of the opposition Labour Party, called on the government to publish a summary of the latest legal assessment.

"I am quite concerned that our obligations regarding international humanitarian law and our export and licensing regime may have been breached," he told the BBC. In Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip since October 7, 33,175 people have been killed and 75,886 injured.

Almost half of the total number of dead were children. The Israeli war has pushed 85 percent of the population of the Gaza Strip into internal displacement with an acute shortage of food, clean water, and medicine, while 60 percent of the enclave's infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to United Nations data.

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