Thank you to everyone who has got in touch to raise concerns about the UK arms trade with Israel and events in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
I was appalled by the horrifying violence and heart-breaking loss of life we saw across Jerusalem, Gaza and Israel in May. There can be no military solution to this conflict and I supported calls for an immediate ceasefire. I was also strongly opposed to Israeli air strikes that caused more than two hundred civilian casualties, including dozens of children. While Israel has a right to defend itself against indiscriminate Hamas rocket attacks, there could be no justification for actions that caused such high numbers of civilian casualties.
On arms exports, during the violence in the spring I supported calls for the Government to report to Parliament with an assessment of the use of any exported arms and equipment in the conflict and for it to examine the risks involved in any future arms sales to the Israeli security forces.
I believe such a report was needed because there is a legal framework that must be followed when it comes to arms sales. I would have liked to see Government Ministers review what type of weapons the UK sells to Israel, and whether there is a risk they will be used to violate international law. If Ministers find that is the case, then they have not just a moral duty to stop those arms sales, but a legal requirement to do so as well. I believe it is important to carry out such review so that we can know whether Ministers are meeting their legal duties.
The Government says it takes its export control responsibilities very seriously and that it considers all export applications thoroughly against a strict risk assessment framework. However, I believe it has failed to address weaknesses in the current rules that have repeatedly been highlighted. I therefore believe we need a new arms export regime that is truly transparent, free from arbitrary political judgments and reflects our commitment to upholding international law.
On the Israel Arms Trade (Prohibition) Bill, the Bill is currently some way down the list of Bills to be considered in the House of Commons and is therefore very unlikely to make any progress through Parliament. However, I can assure you that I will continue to monitor developments on this issue.