Is the Government Embarrassed by the Israeli Connection to Watchkeeper?

The UK government seems to be embarrassed by its Israeli connections.

While it seemed able to handle the hypocrisy of consistently voting against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza while inviting Israel to arm the MOD, the 2008-09 attacks on Gaza made military links with Israel potentially damaging with the electorate.

Not only has it been exceptionally quiet about the successful testing of its new premiere drone system, but other indications are that it is embarrassed to be associated with the Israeli military machine.

Despite the fact that Watchkeeper is being provided by U-TacS, which is owned 51% by Elbit Systems of Israel, and 49% by Thales of France, Thales is at pains to take credit for many of the operations associated with the contract. Does this mean that Thales is making it easier for the government, by not bringing up the Israeli connection?

Even before the attacks on Gaza there are indications of the Government’s discomfort with how its association with Israeli arms companies was ‘seen’ by the public.

In 2008 Haaretz reported that the British government had cancelled a series of tests that Elbit Systems had planned to carry out for the Watchkeeper drone at the Golan Piq Airfield,  in the occupied Golan Heights. Many of Elbit’s drone testing activities are carried out there.

It said that Elbit later had got permission from the Airports Authority to carry out the trials at neary Rosh Pina airport, despite concerns by residents for  safety of residents and the environment. It did not report the concerns of Arab and Druze residents of the Golan Heights over ongoing drone testing by Elbit in the Golan Heights.

Haaretz reported the British statement :

“It is the long held position of the U.K. Government that the Golan Heights is occupied territory. In this context the U.K. Defense Ministry would consider it inappropriate to use the facilities at the Golan Heights as part of the Watchkeeper program.”

Yet if the UK had qualms about paying 850 million pounds to an Israeli arms company integrally linked to the occupation of the Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza, it seems not to have made them public. It was apparently acceptable to deal with a company actively testing its products in occupied territory and occupied airspace so long as Britain’s name was kept at a distance.

Many of the residents of Golan Heights (map) fled to safe haven in Syria after the 1968 war and subsequently their villages were bulldozed and the land given to Israeli settlers.


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