Home News For many Western allies, arms shipments to Israel are risky

For many Western allies, arms shipments to Israel are risky

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For months, Western governments have provided military support to Israel while avoiding accusations that their weapons are used to commit war crimes in Gaza. But maintaining that balance is becoming increasingly difficult amid global outcry over the rising death toll in Gaza, as was evident one day this past week.

On Tuesday, at the United Nations court, Germany found itself having to defend itself against the charges. Participating in the genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza by exporting weapons to Israel.

Hours later in Washington, Rep. Gregory W. Meeks of New York, a top ally of Democrats and the Biden administration, said he may block Unless he is convinced that Palestinian civilians will not be bombed indiscriminately, an $18 billion deal will be struck to sell F-15 fighter jets to Israel.

Two miles away, at a media briefing at the State Department, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron was asked about the British government’s conclusion after weeks of internal review into whether Israel violated international humanitarian law in its offensive in Gaza. in conclusion.

The British, German and American governments remain the backbone of international military support for Israel. So far, the pressure has not swayed them, although President Joe Biden this month has gone further than ever, threatening that future support for Israel will depend on how it addresses his concerns about civilian casualties and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza .

Mr Cameron was also vague, if only a little. He defended Israel at the briefing and suggested that recent advice he had received did not lead to the conclusion that arms exports should be halted. He said that the British government’s position only reflected the “latest assessment” of the issue, implying that certain flexibility.

Gaza health authorities say the war has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, including 13,000 children, sparking global outrage. subvert geopolitics and could help determine the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in November. It has also increasingly threatened war crimes charges against governments that export weapons in conflicts, which opponents say violates international humanitarian law.

More than 600 lawyers and retired judges have recently raised such concerns. urge the British government Freeze on arms shipments to Israel, citing “reasonable risks” to Gaza.

Israel strenuously denies accusations of genocide, arguing it needs to defend itself against Hamas. Hamas led the Oct. 7 attack, which Israeli officials said killed about 1,200 people.

Iran’s threat to launch an attack on Israel in retaliation for the Damascus bombings that killed several senior Iranian military officers seems certain to destabilize an already volatile situation.

However, as the death toll in Gaza rose, Belgium, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain all halted arms deals with Israel. The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell Fontelles, appeared to discourage the shipment of more weapons. February noted wryly “If the international community thinks this is a massacre and too many people are being killed, maybe they have to consider providing weapons.”

Last week’s hearing against Germany at the United Nations’ International Court of Justice is the latest factor to send chills to Israeli arms suppliers. The situation could get worse if Israel goes ahead with its plans to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah, a refuge for hundreds of thousands of displaced Gazans.

The case brought by Nicaragua highlights concerns that foreign arms sales to Israel would not only kill Palestinians but also help protect the Jewish state. Israel vehemently denies it is committing genocide, but a court ordered it to take steps to prevent atrocities in a separate case brought by South Africa in February.

Germany is estimated to have approved about $353 million in arms exports to Israel last year, although officials say most of the military aid provided since the war began has been non-lethal. Given its crimes during World War II, Germany is stung by accusations that its weapons may have contributed to genocide, even as public opposition to the war and concerns about those responsible for atrocities have grown.

“This is a wave of sentiment sweeping through parts of German society, and a lot of people are taking sides,” said Christian Molin, research director at the German Council on Foreign Relations. But he said it was unclear whether public antipathy toward Israel was would eventually cut off arms sales, in part because of “alarmingly low total deliveries.”

Approving arms exports to Israel also takes its allies to local or national courts. This has heightened anxiety among governments who believe their arms shipments are too small to cause international outrage.

In the Netherlands, a state court in February ordered the government to stop shipping F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel, saying it was “undeniable” that the equipment posed a risk of use in “serious violations of international humanitarian law.” “

The Dutch government is appealing the decision, arguing the jets are vital to Israel’s security against regional foes such as Iran and Hezbollah. The latest figures show Dutch military exports to Israel totaled about $11 million in 2022, officials said.

In Italy, just weeks after the Gaza war began, the Italian government halted arms trade with Israel, with Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto telling parliament last month that “this suspension continues to this day.” Officials said the decision was taken to ensure Italy’s compliance with international humanitarian law and national policy against supplying weapons to countries at war.

Although Italy delivered some weapons late last year to fulfill an existing contract, Crosetto said they were “not concerned with material that could have an impact on civilians in Gaza.” Only about 2% of Israel’s arms imports come from Italy, worth about $9.6 million in 2022. However, in the years before the war broke out, Italy was Israel’s third-largest foreign supplier of major weapons systems, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks arms transfers.

By far the largest arms exporter to Israel is the United States, Which one committed In 2016, Israel proposed a 10-year, $38 billion military aid package that included $5 billion for missile defense and provided grants to fund Israeli purchases from U.S. defense companies.

The Biden administration is assessing whether Israel has violated international law in Gaza, and as of last week, “we have seen no indication that they have done so,” White House spokesman John F. Kirby said. The law requires the government to cut off U.S. military support to countries that restrict the delivery of humanitarian aid, as Israel has done in Gaza.

over one million Palestinians facing famine More than 200 rescue workers died, including 7 Killed this month Air raids on the World Central Kitchen convoy.

Over the past six months, President Biden has repeatedly declared his “unwavering” support for Israel and its right to defend itself — not just from Hamas but also from Iran and allied militants in Lebanon and Yemen. Able to protect Israel’s security” He said Wednesday at the White House.

However, as the war dragged on and Biden gradually took a tougher stance on Israel, bombings and invasions led to mounting civilian casualties. Mr Biden says of Israeli government: ‘They need to do more’ At the same White House press conference. .

But that’s not enough to satisfy Americans, who hope Biden will use the threat of weapons cutoffs to force Israel to accept a ceasefire.This sentiment was echoed some democrats They worry about his re-election prospects and the dismal down-ballot impact that could have on other members of the party.

At least in a recent series of letters seven democratsCreator and above 50 House DemocratsIncluding California Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the former House Speaker, urged Biden to halt all weapons transfers to Israel.

plus pressure, A coalition of more than a dozen liberal organizations and unions that will be a key component of Biden’s re-election campaign asked him in a letter Thursday to halt military aid to Israel until the Israeli government lifts humanitarian aid to Gaza Limitations on aid.

If he doesn’t, he risks losing support among reliable Democratic voters — especially young people — said Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, president of Next Generation America, a company focused on improving Voter turnout and being part of that coalition.

“We are concerned about the humanitarian and moral implications,” Ms. Zinzin Ramirez said, “as well as the political survival of the government.”

Jason Horowitz and Reed J. Epstein Contributed reporting.

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