British foreign policy with regard to Israeli arms companies continues to baffle. The UK has a policy limiting exports to the apartheid state, but no apparent limit on purchases.
Only a few years ago the UK entered into an agreement with an Israeli/French consortium to create a MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) UAV programme based on Elbit Systems’s Hermes 450 drone. The billion pound ‘Watchkeeper’ programme has been much delayed, even though the criteria for contract fulfillment have been relaxed. In the interim the UK has leased Hermes 450’s from Elbit for use in Afghanistan. Recently Peter Luff the UK Minister for Defence Equipment and Support has made excuses for the long delays in the Watchkeeper programme, citing the need to meet military and civilian air worthiness criteria. The delays mean that Watchkeeper will make no meaningful contribution to the Afghan mission and may never be deployed there before British troops leave.
Now Ha’aretz has reported that the UK is considering buying Israeli Eitan drones, because of long delays in the BAE programme to create a British ‘Taranis’ drone. The Eitan is a very large drone, capable of very long endurance and carrying heavy loads, including a variety of weapons up to and including nuclear bombs. (The Eitan is itself not without problems).
The UK policy of not purchasing Israeli weapons was in response to the 2009 murderous attack by Israel on Gaza. But the UK policy of making billion pound purchases from Israel seems to take no account of Israeli violations of international law.