LONDON (Jan. 31)
Israeli officials were surprised by the British government’s decision to continue its nine-year arms embargo of Israel despite the warming of relations between the two countries since the Persian Gulf crisis began last August.
The decision, revealed by Foreign Office sources this week, dashed Israel’s hopes that the arms sanctions would be lifted as a gesture of Britain’s gratitude for Israel’s restraint in the face of Iraqi missile attacks.
The embargo was imposed to protest Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982. While policy differences remain, there is now “a kind of genuine sympathy and willingness to listen — on both sides — that we haven’t seen in many years,” a well-placed Israeli source here remarked.
British officials say the embargo can be lifted only when Israel ends its “occupation” of parts of southern Lebanon.
There has been considerable speculation in diplomatic quarters that Britain might reverse last year’s refusal to sell gas masks to Israel.
“We have not been asked about gas masks. If we are asked, we would consider the request,” a Foreign Office spokesman said in reply to a question.