12/08/2014 14:02 BST | Updated 12/08/2014 14:59 BST

Vince Cable Condemned Over 'Very Weak' Threat To Suspend Arms Sales To Israel

Vince Cable of the Liberal Democratic party leaves 10 Downing Street Wednesday, May, 12 2010. Britain's new Prime Minister David Cameron has appointed more of his new political partners to key Cabinet posts _ handing his coalition Liberal Democrat colleague Vince Cable a key business brief. Cable's appointment may spark nervousness in the financial sector. An ex-economist for Royal Dutch Shell, Cable is a fierce critic of banking practices and has demanded action to spur lending. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Vince Cable has come under fire for failing to back an arms embargo against Israel in favour of a "very weak" threat to suspend 12 export licences if violence breaks out again in the region.

Cable announced that the UK would halt the export of components for radar systems, combat aircraft and tanks, in the event of "significant hostilities" resuming in Gaza amid fears the equipment could be used by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) in Gaza.

However, Andrew Smith from Campaign Against Arms Trade told the Huffington Post UK: "Even by Vince Cable's own admission UK weapons might be getting used in Gaza. The UK's failure to even suspend these licences unless the violence resumes is simply not good enough.

"It is a very weak position and it will be seen as a sign of political support for the Israeli government. The public is rightfully shocked by the bombardment that has been taking place and the UK needs to take responsibility by revoking all current licences. It should announce a full embargo on all arms sales to Israel as well as an end to all military-industrial collaboration with Israel."​

Since 2010, the British government has licensed £42 million worth of military exports to Israel, including targeting systems and drone components.

The Lib Dem business secretary said today: “We welcome the current ceasefire in Gaza and hope that it will lead to a peaceful resolution. However the UK Government has not been able to clarify if the export licence criteria are being met. In light of that uncertainty we have taken the decision to suspend these existing export licences in the event of a resumption of significant hostilities.

Cable's threat comes just days after former foreign office minister Baroness Warsi told the Huffington Post UK that Britain should back an arms embargo against Israel, in a call that was later backed by the Scottish government.

"It appalls me that the British government continues to allow the sale of weapons to a country, Israel, that has killed almost 2,000 people, including hundreds of kids, in the past four weeks alone," the Tory peer said. "The arms exports to Israel must stop."

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg recently threw his weight behind an arms embargo against Israel, saying the Israeli military had "overstepped the mark".

A Lib Dem spokesman blamed the weakness of Cable's threat on being in coalition, saying that the announcement was "as far as we have been able to reach in collective agreement with the Conservatives".

"It has taken a significant amount of time and effort from Liberal Democrats in Government to get us this far," the spokesman added.

"What is clear now is that we have agreement that if the current ceasefire ends in Gaza, which we all hope it doesn't, and there was a resumption of significant hostilities, then there would be an immediate suspension of those arms export licences to Israel that give cause for concern."

The Business department found that the "vast majority" of exports allowed to Israel were "not for items that could be used by Israeli forces in operations in Gaza in response to attacks by Hamas".

A UK export licence granted last February for up to £7.7 billion of cryptographic equipment will not be suspended, as it "covers equipment that could be used to build mobile phone networks in residential areas and for small businesses".