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The ongoing situation in Israel and Gaza – an update on UK arms exports

By 20 December 2023December 21st, 2023No Comments

Constituents have rightly got in touch to share their concerns regarding the ongoing situation in Israel and Gaza, as well as with regards to reports that the UK continues to export arms to Israel during this conflict.

The scale of death and destruction seen since the horrific attacks of 7 October and the beginning of Israel’s military operation has been shocking and deeply upsetting for many in our city to witness.

Over the last few months, I have been taking these matters very seriously and raising concerns in the House of Commons and lobbying Government over the issues raised, working closely with Medical Aid for Palestinians following my visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories in September.

You can read my previous update here, my question to the Foreign Secretary calling for urgent food supplies here, and a report on my recent visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories here.

I share deep concerns over the way Israel has conducted its operation to date, as well as valid desires to ensure the UK is not exporting offensive weapons which could be used in this operation.

I support our defence industry and its role in protecting our national security, supporting allies and supporting jobs. At the same time, it is essential that it is subject to robust export controls. This helps ensure compliance with our international obligations, as well as retaining confidence in our world-leading industry.

I believe our arms export regime should be strengthened so it is transparent and fully committed to upholding international law, with a stronger role for Parliament. These rules should apply equally and consistently to all countries.

In relation to Israel specifically, the Government has said no offensive military equipment has been delivered since 7 October. It also says it keeps relevant licenses under review and will not grant an export license where it would be inconsistent with the Strategic Export Licensing Criteria.

This means UK arms exports should not be allowed if there is a serious risk they will be used for external aggression, internal repression or serious violations of international humanitarian law.

I have tabled written questions to the Secretary of State for Defence to seek assurances that no offensive military equipment has been supplied since the 7 October and that this will remain the case throughout the conflict.

I know there is widespread concern about Israel’s conduct in this military operation, including serious allegations from the UN, and that it is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court. I believe this raises serious questions about compliance with the licence criteria, which the Government has a duty to assess and address as part of any export process.

It is crucial that Ministers guarantee the export criteria will be applied rigorously and robustly to Israel in light of the conduct of the conflict in Gaza.

That’s why I have asked the Secretary of State for Defence to publish his departments recent assessment of Israel’s compliance with licence criteria to ensure this is being appropriately applied.

I also welcome the debate on 12 December providing an opportunity for MPs to press the Government on these issues.

More broadly, open-ended military action without a clear and desired political outcome is ultimately futile. A political agreement, however unlikely it seems today, is the only way to ultimately resolve this conflict.

We must do everything humanly possible to relieve the suffering of the people of Gaza. I know the situation there is dire and the warnings of UN agencies and NGOs must not be ignored. There must be action to tackle the urgent and unacceptable humanitarian catastrophe there, with immediate access to aid, food, water, fuel and medicine.

That’s why I have argued we need to get to a sustainable ceasefire as quickly as possible. In my view, the route to that is to get back to an agreement like the previous truce deal in November which would allow for a cessation of hostilities, the release of hostages and aid to be brought into Gaza.

I have therefore pressed Ministers on this important issue and asked the Government what representations they have made to their Israeli counterparts to secure this aim here.

This would also be a step to a political process to achieve a two-state solution that ensures Israelis feel safe and secure from terror and that innocent Palestinians can return home and rebuild their lives, free from bombardment and Hamas control.

I can assure all constituents that I will continue to monitor the situation and continue to raise these matters in Parliament, to bring a renewed push from all parties to find a way to peace.

You can view my extensive written questions on this and other related matters when they are published here.

You can see my letter to the Foreign Secretary calling for a sustained ceasefire here.