The supply of arms and military equipment may have been fuelled by an old hatred of the British harbored by then Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin – himself a former Irgun terrorist who fought against British troops in Palestine.
Israeli exports included Skyhawk jets that were responsible for bombing and sinking the RFA Sir Galahad, a troop ship, leaving 48 dead and numerous horrific injuries.
The sale of Israeli arms to the right-wing Galtieri regime of the day was first exposed in a 2001 book on the authoritarian junta. Further evidence has now come to light in the documents, which show that arms deals were being made throughout the war until 1984.
Israel’s logic was apparently simple: even though Britain was an ally, it also armed regimes hostile to Israel. The exports were also seen as key to Israel’s economy.
A 1984 memorandum, found in documents from Foreign Office Near East Chief C.W. Long, makes it clear that: “Israel was one of the few countries to supply Argentina with arms during the Falklands conflict and has continued to do so.”
The documents show that, although the UK Foreign Office remonstrated with Israel about supplying Britain’s enemy, Long was sure that “Israeli interests in Argentina will outweigh any readiness they might otherwise feel to be helpful to us.”
In the 2011 book Operation Israel, Argentine author Hernan Dobry confirms that Israeli officials denied any knowledge of the arms sales when confronted about them by UK diplomats during the war.
He also pointed out that Menachin Begin had been a resistance fighter in Palestine in the 1940s, and that his Irgun comrade, Dov Gruner, had been executed by the British in 1947.
In his book, Dobry suggests that there was a strong element of vengeance in Begin’s decision to back Britain’s enemy.
Dobry claims that after signing off on the arms deal Begin said: “Dov up there is going to be happy with the decision.”