While Israel is watching developments in the war in Ukraine with the political and economic implications in mind, it is also looking forward to the export deals that are likely to boost its arms industry. Israel’s military exports totalled $9 billion last year, up from $8.3bn in 2020, amounting to three per cent of global military spending.
Those exports are expected to rise again this year due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Israel is now the world’s 10th largest arms exporter according to a recent report. The occupation state’s high-tech industry will hope to follow suit.
Some of the arms exports in recent years have been to Arab Gulf States, which bought weapons and security systems without any publicity, even before the public normalisation agreements. In early 2020, they paid $800 million to Israel for these, including electronic defence and attack software.
The recent Negev Summit will also lead to more arms sales to the Arab world as regimes keep Iran’s nuclear development in mind. The infamous Pegasus spyware will probably be offered in exchange for Israeli overflights.Europe’s share of Israel’s arms exports is 30 per cent; Asia and the Pacific Region have a combined 44 per cent; North America buys 20 per cent; and the balance is spread across Latin America and Africa. The war in Ukraine means that more Israeli arms will be heading to Europe, in competition with the US arms industry, from which Europe currently imports 54 per cent its total arms and security systems.
Germany’s announcement of a €100 billion annual increase in its defence budget was followed with interest by Israel. It is expected to export anti-tank missiles and body armour to the Germans, who sell submarines to the Israelis.
Sweden’s increased defence budget is expected to buy tank shells worth tens of millions of dollars from Israel. Britain is going to do the same, even though it has reduced its defence budget significantly over recent decades. As discussions continue about increasing it, the British have bought around £11 million worth of military equipment from Israeli manufacturers.
India is the second largest importer of arms in the world, ahead of Egypt, Australia and China. It argues that it has no other option but to arm itself against China, which continues to grow in military and economic power. Israeli exports to India amount to $1bn a year. The Indians are authorised by Israel to manufacture and export Israeli-designed drones and ammunition across South East Asia. It is believed that the laser systems currently being developed in Israel will eventually also reach India.
Coinciding with the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Israel hosted its annual arms fair, with delegations from many countries with appalling human rights records. Israeli arms and ammunition are “field-tested” against Palestinians in the occupied territories, as Yotam Feldman revealed in his 2013 documentary The Lab. That is why it is in Israel’s interest to maintain its brutal military occupation: it benefits the arms industry.
The occupation state is hoping that the latest war in Europe will make European governments realise their need for Israeli weapons. Israel stands to make a lot of money out of the crisis in Ukraine, and not just from Europe. It has extensive military relations with 130 countries that have been investing in Israeli weapons for decades through imports, exports, training and other security and military cooperation.
There are no legal restrictions related to human rights issues when issuing arms export licences in Israel. Israeli companies can export weapons and offensive technology to countries that commit flagrant violations of human rights and crimes against humanity, such as Myanmar and South Sudan. It had close military links with the apartheid regime in South Africa, the junta in Argentina and Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.
It is a fact that Israel’s economy depends on arms exports, and that it takes advantage of its frequent military offensives against the Palestinians to market its combat weaponry worldwide. According to one Israeli arms manufacturer in 2014, the arms industry in Israel is harmed if there are no large-scale military operations against the Palestinians.
It is no surprise that after the war against civilians in the Gaza Strip last May, the Israeli aviation industry concluded a deal with a country in Asia for military drones worth $200 million. In 2020, of all global investments on the internet, a third was directed to Israeli electronic companies, many of which are headed by graduates of the occupation state’s intelligence agencies.
It is no longer a secret that Israel’s military industries operate without supervision or transparency, allowing Israel to continue to conclude security, military, and arms deals, with the support of the US and the EU, and establish near-normal relations with repressive and far-right regimes from Eastern Europe and Africa to Brazil. This in turn harms fragile groups and perpetuates ethnic, social, economic and other divisions, even within Israeli society itself.
Expanding the scope of armed conflicts around the world, the most recent of which is in Ukraine, boosts Israel’s arms industry. And as long as its military and economic interests dominate its politics, it will be in its best financial interests to maintain the military occupation of Palestine, and encourage bloody wars around the world.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.