Danish F-16’s used Israeli munitions in bombing raids in Libya last year according to reports confirmed by the Danish Defence Chief Peter Bertram.
The large number of bombing raids undertaken by Danish F-16’s in their operations against the Gaddafi regime quickly exhausted stocks of ammunition, with extra supplies being taken in from the United States and the Netherlands. Despite lengthy negotiations, supplies from Poland were, however, not forthcoming.
The lack of ammunition became so acute that the Danish Air Force approached Israel, which agreed to supply some of the materiel that was in particularly short supply.
The use of Israeli materiel in operations in the Arab world is particularly controversial as the Libya campaign needed the support of the Arab world.
“It’s strange that Denmark did this. Everyone knows that Israel is a particularly sensitive issue in the Middle East, and it seems stupid to use Israeli weapons during controversial bombing of an Arab country,” says Brookings Institute Deputy Director Ibrahim Sharqieh in the Qatari capital Doha.
Sharqieh says that the disclosures are likely to harm Denmark’s image in the Middle East, a sentiment mirrored by Prof. Nabil Dajami of the American University in Beirut.
“After the cartoon issue and the bad way in which that was handled, Denmark’s image in the Arab world is already bad,” Dajami says.
The Arab League – which gave the go-ahead to introduce an air exclusion zone in Libya - is also surprised at the disclosures.
“It is new to me that Israeli weapons were used during the operation,” says Arab League Media Consultant Nada Elagizy.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, Politiken gained access to the Danish Air Force Tactical Command evaluation of the war in Libya. Politiken chose not to publish the parts of the report that were classified.
Defence Chief Peter Bertram agreed, however, yesterday to be interviewed on the entire report, and confirmed that Israeli munitions had been used.
“The military does not carry out foreign policy. What we do with other countries is approved at the political level,” Bertram says.
Asked why Israel was contacted for supplies, Bertram says the supplies were hard to find.
“A fighter is not just a fighter. There are different configurations. And not all countries have precisely the type of ammunition relevant to Danish aircraft. So only a certain group of countries are relevant,” Bertram says.
Although Israel has been a NATO partner for many years, NATO denies that the political approval claimed by Bertram came from NATO.
“NATO plays no role at all in connection with the purchase or borrowing of ammunition from Israel. It is a bilateral issue between member and partner countries,” a centrally placed NATO source says.
Nor did the previous Danish government give its political blessing to weapons purchases from Israel to be used in the Libya campaign.
Then Defence Minister Gitte Lillelund Bech says she was told that the Danish contingent lacked munitions and gave the green light to purchase or borrow from the Netherlands and Poland.
“But I never heard anything about Israel in that connection. Nothing at all,” she says.
The foreign minister at the time – Lene Espersen – was not asked either.
“As foreign minister I was not aware of the weapons used by the defence forces, nor where they came from,” Espersen says.
Socialist People’s Party Defence Spokesman Holger Nielsen was not aware of the purchases either.
“To me it seems unwise to buy weapons from Israel, particularly as part of intervention in the Arab world,” Nielsen says.
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Edited by Julian Isherwood