Majority of voters in UK back banning arms sales to Israel, poll finds

Majority of voters in UK back banning arms sales to Israel, poll finds

A majority of voters in Britain back a ban on arms sales to Israel, according to a YouGov poll.

One of the first up-to-date assessments of whether Israel is losing public support in key allied states, the research also suggests most people believe the Israeli government is violating human rights in Gaza.

The loss of public support in the UK will alarm Israel, which has always relied on strong UK backing.

The poll was commissioned by Action for Humanity and conducted before seven aid workers were killed in an Israeli airstrike, an event for which Israel has apologised but not yet provided an explanation.

The poll shows that among all voters in the UK a majority of 56% to 17% are in favour of a ban on the export of arms and spare parts. By a majority of 59% to 12% voters say Israel is violating human rights in Gaza.

There has been very little British polling of public opinion on Israel’s conduct in Gaza, unlike in the US. The findings suggest that strenuous Israeli efforts at public diplomacy have failed to convince the British public.

The poll found strong support for an arms export ban among voters intending to vote Labour at the next election. An overwhelming 71% to 9% of those intending to vote Labour back an arms export ban, while Lib Dem voters support a ban by 70% to 14% and Conservative voters by 38% to 36%. Asked if Israel is violating human rights, Tory voters by two to one say Israel is doing so.

Western public opinion matters in the Gaza conflict in a way that it sometimes does not in other wars. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has repeatedly said the length of the country’s effort to destroy Hamas as a fighting force is dependent on the continuance of western support.

Many senior Israeli politicians discuss the gradual erosion of international support, with some openly fearing Israel is sliding into a pariah status that will set it back in the long term.

Despite tens of thousands of Palestinians being killed, it appears that it is the deaths of British, Polish, Canadian and Australian aid workers that has led to a damn bursting for western powers.

Labour has so far not called for an arms export ban, confining itself to a call for the UK Foreign Office to release the legal advice it has received on whether Israel is in breach of international humanitarian law. The poll suggests Labour could make a call for an arms export ban without alienating its own supporters.

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The YouGov poll had a 2,000-plus sample size. Among 2019 Tory voters the majority in favour of an exports ban is substantially larger than among voters intending to vote Conservative at the next election, suggesting voters swinging away from the Tories in particular are opposed to Israel’s actions.

The Labour former Middle East minister Peter Hain said: “The Conservative government’s inaction has emboldened Israel to continue flouting its obligations under international law to protect Palestinian civilians, who are being denied elementary humanitarian protection.

“Labour should be demanding the government stops all exports of arms and parts to Israel. This is about standing up for human rights, the international rules-based system, and ensuring accountability in a setting where innocent lives are at stake.”

Othman Moqbel, the chief executive of Action for Humanity said: “Aid agencies, including Action for Humanity, are risking their lives to deliver humanitarian assistance, with aid convoys and service locations facing direct targeting, despite being marked as ‘deconflicted’. The UK must finally act to protect those delivering life-saving aid and hold violators of international law to account.”