Thank you for contacting me about the UK arms trade with Israel and recent events in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I have written extensively about this topic in the past, and feel passionately about ending violence in the region. I support the implementation of UK arms export controls to the highest standard and putting an end to exports where they might be used in violation of human rights or international humanitarian law
I was appalled by the horrifying violence and heart-breaking loss of life we saw across Jerusalem, Gaza and Israel in May. I utterly condemn the attacks that have endangered civilian lives and resulted in Palestinian and Israeli casualties, including the heart-breaking loss of many children. I believe it is vital that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is negotiated which ensures a safe and secure Israel, alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.
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 recent violence 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 is needed because there is a legal framework that must be followed when it comes to arms sales. I would like 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 that this review is carried out so that we 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 judgements and reflects our commitment to upholding international law.
On the Israel Arms Trade (Prohibition) Bill, I am very pleased with the increasing levels of support for its objectives and will follow its progress. However, parliamentary convention restricts me from signing any EDMs due to my position as Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Nevertheless I will continue to press the Government to end their involvement with supplying and buying guns for Israel, and to speak up on this important subject.