by MONITOR

ONE aspect of Britain's relations with Israel that would benefit from review, regardless of the outcome of the inquiry into the “stolen” British passports used in Dubai, is the arms trade. Despite Britain's expressed concern over Israel's intrusion into Gaza last year and other instances of “disproportionate” military responses, weapons to the value of about four million pounds were sold to Israel in the first nine months of last year.

The list of items given export licences includes small arms and ammunition, test equipment for identification, sniper rifles and communications -- all presumably suitable for use by Israel in its reaction to Palestinian's resistance to the illegal occupation of their land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Yet the official guidelines for the committee which approves such exports from Britain state that “arms should not be approved when there is a clear risk that the export might be used for internal repression” or would “provoke or prolong armed conflicts”. After the attack on Gaza the foreign secretary, David Miliband, told the House of Commons that British-supplied components for US aircraft supplied to Israel were almost certainly used and he gave an assurance that future applications for arms-related exports to Israel would be “assessed taking into account the recent conflict”. The truth is probably that such subjective assessments are pointless and that an overall embargo should be considered.