An Arms Embargo Imposed

An Arms Embargo Imposed

Over the past week, there have been widespread calls throughout Europe for an arms embargo on Israel. This comes in the wake of a decision by a local court in The Hague earlier this month to ban the Dutch government from exporting parts of F-35 aircraft, a decision that has been met with approval from pro-Palestinian groups in Europe. Now, numerous countries, left-wing political parties, activists and human rights organizations are all asserting the importance of addressing the issue of arms exports.

Recent developments include: Scotland’s Prime Minister Hamza Youssef, whose father-in-law was trapped in Gaza during the initial weeks of the war, urged the British government this week to not only demand an immediate cease-fire from Israel, as it has done since the beginning of the conflict, but to also impose an embargo on British weapon sales to Israel. “We must stop exporting arms to Israel considering its clear violations of international law,” Yosef said.

In Ireland, a country known for its critical stance on Israel both within the European Union and on the global stage, the Senate approved a declaration prohibiting American planes carrying weapons to Israel from using Irish airspace. The declaration also urges the Irish government to advocate for an “international arms embargo” on Israel. Although these actions lack enforcement power, their symbolic significance is apparent.

In Spain, after public criticism, the government announced that it has not authorized any arms sales to Israel since October 7th. The Minister of Labor expressed her expectation that the Spanish government will push for a European-wide arms export ban. In France, members of the Union of Left Parties LFI have been questioning Defense Minister Stéphane Sjourna about the exact nature of the weapons components that France exports to Israel. The minister clarified that France “does not supply weapons, but elementary components”, prompting the head of Amnesty International in France to call on President Emmanuel Macron to halt all arms-related exports to Israel in an open letter. Both Italy and Belgium have previously declared they no longer supply arms or ammunition to Israel.

The most worrying equation appears in the UK

The call to halt defense exports has even reached Germany, one of Israel’s closest allies in Europe since the war started. In spite of this, Germany has actually increased its arms supply to Israel following a terrorist attack by Hamas. There have been reports that the country is even considering providing Israel with thousands of “smart” tank shells from its stockpiles, though a decision has yet to be made. Nonetheless, left-wing members of parliament from the newly formed Brit Sara Wagenknecht party, which split from De Linka, have voiced their opposition to the “indiscriminate supply” of weapons to Israel, citing allegations of war crimes.

At the recent Berlin film festival, one of the main messages from pro-Palestinian protesters was a call to stop supplying Israel with weapons. The issue has also made headlines outside of Europe, with protesters surrounding the Lockheed Martin factory in Canada, demanding an end to the supply of planes and plane parts to Israel.

The level of arms exports from these countries to Israel is significant. From 2015 to 2020, Britain exported half a billion dollars’ worth of arms to Israel, while Italy’s exports amounted to 350 million dollars. In Germany, due to submarine sales, the total reaches into the billions. While the operational importance of European supplies (with the exception of Germany) may currently be low, particularly when compared to the support Israel receives from the USA, the potential for reputational damage and the risk of an arms embargo expanding into other areas is very real.

The situation in Britain is particularly concerning. Diplomatic sources reported last week that the British government would consider implementing a total arms embargo on Israel if the Israeli army launched an attack in Rafah. “Britain has the ability to impose an embargo relatively quickly, given the events on the ground,” a senior source told the media. The British government’s decision to link arms supply to a relative cessation of hostilities and a commitment not to invade Rafah is cause for concern for Israel.

It appears that after five months of war, during which Europe and the US largely supported Israel’s right to self-defense, the potential attack on Rafah could represent a “turning point” with new rules being applied.

Europe demands: not to attack in Rafah

In 2011, Europeans were deeply moved by the plight of the residents of the Libyan city of Misrata. Faced with a counterattack by forces loyal to Gaddafi and air bombardments without any local air force or anti-aircraft forces to defend them, the European response was to intervene in the war, establish a “no-fly” zone and essentially provide air support to the rebels fighting against Gaddafi’s regime. Now, Rafah could be seen as the new Misrata in the eyes of European public opinion.

While there are no current proposals to establish a no-fly zone or to engage in combat against Israel, the unanimous European opposition to an Israeli attack on Rafah signifies a shift in the dynamics of European attitudes towards Israel. In this case, Europe has gone one step beyond the US, which stated publicly that Rafah should not be attacked “unless there is a plan for humanitarian evacuation”. European countries, on the other hand, are unequivocally demanding that an attack on the densely populated area be avoided. This sentiment has been expressed by British Foreign Minister David Cameron, and even German Chancellor Schulz stated this week that Germany “clearly warns against a widespread attack on Rafah”.

This represents a significant change from the support Israel received prior to the ground invasion. While there were concerns expressed about the humanitarian situation, harm to civilians and the nature of the Israeli action, Europe did not oppose a ground invasion in the name of Israel’s right to self-defense. Now, with the passage of time since October 7, changes in public opinion, images from Gaza, decisions by the Court of Justice in The Hague and even the local court in the city regarding the F-35 parts have had an impact. It appears that, from a European perspective, the export of weapons to Israel is the first issue under threat.

Please note: The Globes system is committed to fostering a diverse, relevant and respectful discourse in line with the code of ethics outlined in our trust report. Expressions of violence, racism, incitement or any other inappropriate discourse are automatically filtered out and will not be published on the site.

One thought on “An Arms Embargo Imposed


Comments are closed.