Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates' second largest member, stands to sign a multi-million dollar deal with Israel's ImageSat
International, the American Defense News magazine reported recently.
ImageSat, which is co-owned by the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and several private investors, owns and operates two EROS satellites, whose services will now be open to the Gulf state as well.
According to the report, Abu Dhabi and ImageSat signed their first imagery cooperation agreement back in 2006, enabling the country to subscribe to ImageSat's Eros-A satellite services. The new agreement will allow the UAE state access to images generated by Eros-B, which was launched into orbit in April of 2006.
Both satellites were manufactured by Israel – the frames by the IAI and the imagery cameras by Elbit Systems' subsidiary, Elop. The new contract is said to be worth $20 million a year.
According to the Defense News, ImageSat will allot Abu Dhabi a deciphering station and allow it to get images of pre-specified areas. The magazine further alleges that the contract will fortify Israel unofficial business ties with Abu Dhabi.
Despite signing contracts with United Arab Emirates members, who have no official ties with Israel, ImageSat refused in the past to deal with other nations in similar situations: In 2008, the company's minority shareholders sued the majority shareholder for preventing a deal with Venezuela.
The matter was heard by a US court, but the suit was eventually dismissed. Venezuelan President Hugo Chaves was rumored to be interested in buying ImageSat shares, but that fell through as well.
The Israeli authorities are wary about allowing foreign nations to subscribe to Eros services, and any country which does so cannot decipher images taken by the satellites over Israel.
Arie Egozi contributed to this report