I am aware that organisations such as Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign have expressed concerns about UK arms exports to Israel, particularly following recent violence in Gaza and the hostilities there in 2014.
As a country, I believe it is important that we implement the Arms Trade Treaty to a consistently high standard, including ceasing arms exports to countries where there is concern that they will be used to violate international humanitarian law. As you are probably aware, all arms export licence applications are considered on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. This criteria covers a range of issues, including the potential for serious violation of international humanitarian law.
States have the right to acquire the means to defend themselves. However, strong export controls have a vital role to play in sustaining a legitimate trade in arms and the Government also has a responsibility to ensure that arms are only sold for legitimate defensive purposes.
The Government has made it clear that it does not believe a blanket arms embargo on Israel is appropriate. However, the Government has emphasised that it monitors the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories and takes into account the latest circumstances when assessing licence applications. It is ultimately the Government’s responsibility to make sure it is implementing its own arms export rules, and I agree that any perceived failure in doing so would seriously undermine the UK in the eyes of the world.
More widely, I believe every effort must be made to resume meaningful negotiations to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on a two-state solution – a secure Israel alongside a viable state of Palestine. It is clear that after all this time, there can be no military solution to this conflict, and all sides must avoid taking action that would make peace harder to achieve and get back round the negotiating table.