Netanyahu (R) visits Johnson in Downing Street last September. Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a request from U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to allow ventilators to be exported from Israel to the U.K., Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The U.K. is one of Israel's closest allies, and it's facing one of the world's worst coronavirus outbreaks. Raab made the request last week while deputizing for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was hospitalized with severe coronavirus symptoms but has since been released.

The backstory: Several British companies have attempted to purchase ventilators from Israeli suppliers but have been unable to because Netanyahu had issued an emergency decree banning the export of such technology, Israeli officials say. That led the U.K. to raise the issue on a political level.

  • Raab asked for an exemption from the export ban because of the U.K.'s urgent need.
  • Netanyahu expressed understanding, but said Israel needed the ventilators for domestic use.
  • Israel also faces a severe coronavirus outbreak, and the decision to ban the export of ventilators came amid fears of a domestic shortage as hospitalizations increased.

Spain also sought ventilators from Israel, with the foreign minister calling her Israeli counterpart earlier this week seeking 30 ventilators for Spanish hospitals.

  • The Spanish foreign minister said the ventilators had been ordered prior to the export ban and partially paid for. She demanded that Israel release them as soon as possible, Israeli officials say.
  • Israel’s foreign minister said the ventilators could not be exported at this time.

The Prime Minister’s office and Israeli Foreign Ministry did not deny this account but declined to comment on conversations held in diplomatic channels.

Go deeper: Israeli intelligence bought 100,000 of the wrong coronavirus test kits

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