Israel boosts its profits by arms deals fueling wars and conflicts

Heavy armed Israeli Border Police officers in Nablus (Nasser Ishtayeh - SOPA Images)

Adnan Abu Amer

Middle East Monitor  /  December 14, 2022

As the year end approaches, it’s become clear that Israeli arms manufactures have concluded more unprecedented deals which mean that three of them are responsible for two per cent of the total arms deals in the world. These companies — Elbit, Rafael and Aerospace Industries — remain on the list of the 100 largest exporters, recording three per cent growth in sales valued at $592 billion. The figure is expected to have increased dramatically in 2022 due to the Ukraine war.

According to statistics reported by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), this year was predicted to be a record year for Israeli arms sales, with many countries raising their defence procurement budgets.

Israeli arms deals fuel wars and armed conflicts around the world. The occupation state has boosted its profits at the expense of the lives of civilians killed because its deadly weapons often figure in human rights violations and war crimes. Israel sells arms to oppressive regimes in flagrant violation of international laws which call for such regimes to be boycotted.

Very few people in the Israeli military establishment know the details of these deals due to their sensitivity and possibly the desire of the buyers not to disclose the details because of domestic considerations. Nevertheless, the deals involve dozens, if not hundreds, of people within and beyond Israel and are supervised by military officials with extensive contacts and cooperation with other states, some of which have no diplomatic relations with the occupation state. These are not overnight deals; they take many months of patient discussions.

Arms deals are part of the business of building military alliances. For this reason, approval is often required from army chiefs of staff, foreign ministers and possibly even senior legal officials within governments. Diplomatic and legal considerations are taken into account.

Israel is using arms deals to develop various armies around the world in the name of “mutual interests”, especially with countries interested in the latest technologies at its disposal. In some places, especially in Africa, military cooperation paves the way for weapons, skills and training to suppress political opponents and wage wars with neighbouring states.

The Israeli arms industry employs around 250,000 people, so it is an important employer. It is believed that its customers for arms are found in 130 countries with deals worth $9bn a year. According to Israeli military officials, 35 per cent of the state’s arms deals are with European countries and North America; two per cent are in Latin America; and 63 per cent are in Asia, the Pacific and Africa. The arms involved include robots, drones, command and control systems, radars, electronic equipment, missile and air defence products, manned aircraft and avionics and surveillance equipment, as well as intelligence and communication systems.

The US Army has bought into the Iron Dome missile defence system, while Greece has signed a huge deal with Israel for the establishment and operation of a flight training centre for the air force over twenty years, at a cost of $1.68bn. India is believed to be Israel’s largest customer, with arms deals valued at $15bn. Indeed, Israel is India’s second largest arms supplier after Russia.

Vietnam is not only buying more arms from Israel, but it has also established joint committees for security cooperation and the transfer of advanced military technology. Israeli businessman Sami Katsab has established a factory in Vietnam for the production of Israeli Tabor rifles. Azerbaijan is an important export destination for Israeli weapons, even though this violates EU regulations, and the EU is a major trading partner of the occupation state.

Arguably more seriously, Israel does not hesitate to conclude arms deals with dictatorships that violate human rights and commit war crimes. Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s recent insistence that the Israeli army cannot be taught about morals by anyone in the world clearly doesn’t extend to arms manufacturers. The fact is that Israeli weapons play an important and dangerous role in conflicts around the world — where is the morality in that, Mr Lapid? — and there are no apparent controls over the deadly trade. Such deals should be source of shame and disgust for the people of Israel, because of the death and destruction that they bring, but they seem to be incapable of feeling such emotions. The ongoing brutal military occupation of Palestine is proof of that.

Adnan Abu Amer is the head of the Political Science Department at the University of the Ummah in Gaza