Saferworld calls for arms embargo on Israel and changes to Export Control Bill

Saferworld is calling for the UK to stop exporting arms to Israel after Foreign Office Minister Ben Bradshaw admitted that UK-supplied weapons were being used in the Occupied Territories, contrary to assurances given by the Israeli Government. The situation also highlights the need to establish a formal system to monitor the end-use of arms exports in the Export Control Bill. The Bill is now in the House of Lords but the Government has repeatedly rejected calls to put such a system in place.

Saferworld is concerned about a number of exports to Israel that are listed in the Government’s 2000 Annual Report on Strategic Exports. Licences were granted for exports of demolition charges, general purpose machine guns, rifles, small arms ammunition and components for small calibre artillery ammunition, components for air-to-surface missile, armoured fighting vehicle, armoured personnel carrier, combat aircraft, combat helicopter and tanks. The EU Code of Conduct on arms exports requires the UK Government not to licence weapons sales “if there is a clear risk that the intended recipient would use the proposed export aggressively against another country or to assert by force a territorial claim”.

Andy McLean, Saferworld’s Communications Manager said: “This equipment clearly has a potentially offensive use. If the Israeli Government has broken one undertaking there is a concern that these other British weapons could now be deployed in the Occupied Territories. It is very questionable whether licensing these arms in the first place contravened the EU Code of Conduct. Any further transfers should be stopped immediately and a full embargo should now be put in place.”

On 7 March, Baroness Amos, Foreign Office Minister admitted that “British Embassy staff in Tel Aviv do not undertake physical checks on the end-use of UK licensed equipment, components and spare parts supplied by the UK to Israel. They do not have the resources to do so.”

This shows that it is vital to amend the Export Control Bill to establish a formal system of end-use monitoring of British arms exports. The Government has argued that such a system would be impractical and difficult to enforce. However, the Pentagon only this week announced that it is establishing a similar system and US teams will annually conduct random in-country spot checks on foreign government use of selected U.S. exports.


  • The UK Government should impose an arms embargo on Israel and work with EU partners to negotiate an EU embargo.
  • The Government should amend the Export Control Bill to establish a system of end-use monitoring of arms sales.
  • The Government should amend the Export Control Bill to establish a committee of parliamentarians that can scrutinise applications for export licences and raise concerns about human rights and regional stability.